Conciliation is a process where a commissioner meets with the parties in dispute, and explores ways to settle the dispute by agreement. At conciliation a party may appear in person or only be represented by a director or employee of that party or any member, office bearer or official of that party's registered trade union or registered employer's organisation. The meeting is conducted in an informal way.
The commissioner may begin by meeting jointly with the parties and asking them to share information about the dispute. Separate meetings between the commissioner and each party may also be held. Parties are encouraged to share information and to come forward with ideas on how their differences can be settled. The commissioner may also put forward suggestions.
A commissioner is given wide functions in conciliation. The commissioner may determine a process which may include mediation, facilitation or making recommendations in the form of an advisory arbitration award. A commissioner may cause persons and documents to be subpoenaed, and has the power to enter and inspect premises and seize any book, document or object that is relevant to the dispute. The commissioner's role is to try to resolve the dispute within 30 days of it being referred to the CCMA. If the dispute is settled, an agreement will normally be drawn up and that ends the matter. The commissioner will issue a certificate recording that the dispute has been settled.
Exhausting internal procedures
Parties should ensure that internal procedures and processes have been exhausted prior to making a referral to the CCMA. The Labour Relations Act encourages parties who are in dispute to first attempt to try and reach an amicable solution to the dispute by exploring internal mechanisms.