Settling disputes is a key aspect of maintaining fairness and stability in any sector, and the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) continues to render this vital service for the civil engineering industry.
Through the BCCEI’s Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC), dispute referrals are resolved as quickly as possible to meet the accreditation standards of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), according to DRC manager Merle Denson.
“To ensure we achieve the best results, the BCCEI appoints highly rated commissioners and arbitrators who are accredited by the CCMA and hear cases under industry-specific standards and guidelines,” says Denson. “In addition, they are seasoned professionals with a solid understanding of the civil engineering sector.”
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, cases have continued to be dealt with using all means possible including remote online facilitation via Video Conferencing, Zoom or Teams, she says. As an industry-based forum of organized business and labour, the BCCEI regulates employment conditions and labour relations in civil engineering – with the aim of fostering a stable and productive working environment.
The DRC’s services are available to all firms in the sector, and to all scheduled and non-scheduled employees who fall within the BCCEI’s scope.
“The cost of using the BCCEI DRC is covered by the monthly dispute resolution levy paid by employers and employees,” she says. “So there is no additional cost for using the DRC, except when referring an Inquiry by Arbitrator (S188A) dispute.”
Denson highlights that, in all dismissal cases referred to the DRC, the applicant and respondent must first explore a process of conciliation to try to resolve the dispute amicably.
“Where such a settlement cannot be reached, the case then goes to arbitration, if this is requested by the applicant or referring party,” she says. “The case is then arbitrated by an independent commissioner appointed by the BCCEI.”
In the arbitration process, she explains, the arbitrating commissioner hears both sides of the dispute. Based on the evidence that is led and the arguments that are made, the commissioner decides if the dismissal was procedurally or substantively fair, or not – and issues an arbitration award. All arbitration awards are final and binding.
Denson notes that ‘statutory disputes’ around a range of different kinds of dismissal can be handled by the DRC. These include retrenchments (operational requirement disputes), incapacity due to ill health or poor work performance and misconduct – as well as strike action, lock-out, unfair suspension, and severance pay. Among the advantages of the DRC’s service is that disputes in large projects can even be heard on site, for example, at the Medupi and Kusile Power Stations
“On site dispute resolution can be conducted in long-term, multi-disciplinary projects where site agreements are applied,” says Denson. “This means significant savings in time and cost, while ensuring that the process is fully compliant.”