An arbitrator is an impartial third party who facilitates conflict negotiations between employers and employees or unions and employers, during legal proceedings called arbitration. Conflicts are resolved outside of the court system by mutual consent of the parties involved.
Arbitrators may be lawyers, but frequently the parties involved choose an arbitrator for his expertise in the subject matter of their dispute, for example, architects, engineers and the like, who sometimes have little or no formal legal training and experience. Arbitrators, however, need to be thoroughly familiar with, and experienced in, the law and practice of arbitration, the rules of evidence and procedure, the laws of contract and delict, and basic legal principles.
The process is as follows: arbitrators set up appointments for the parties to meet for mediation, and confer with the disputants to clarify the issues, identify the underlying concerns and develop an understanding of their respective needs and interests. During the initial meetings conducted with the disputants, the arbitration process is outlined, procedural matters such as fees are settled, or details such as witness numbers or time requirements determined. Claimants, agents or witnesses are interviewed to obtain information about the disputed issues. Information from documents such as claim applications, birth or death certificates or physician or employer records is evaluated. They analyse the evidence and apply relevant laws, regulations, policies and precedents in order to reach conclusions, and research laws, regulations, policies or precedent decisions to prepare for the hearings.
Mediation techniques are used to facilitate communication between the disputing parties, to further the parties' understanding of the different perspectives and to guide the parties towards a mutual agreement. They rule on exceptions, motions or admissibility of evidence and notify claimants of denied claims and appeal rights. Acceptance or rejection of the compromise settlement offers is recommended, and settlement agreements prepared for the disputants to sign.
In cases of disputes between labour and management, disputes are solved between labour and management to bind both to specific terms and conditions of the labour contract. They conduct hearings to evaluate the contentions of parties regarding the disputed contract provisions. They analyse the information obtained, using their knowledge of the facts in issue and industry practices. They render binding decisions to settle the dispute, protect public interests, prevent employee wage loss, and minimise business interruptions. They issue a report concerning the results of arbitration. Payment of valid claims is authorised. In some cases they participate in court proceedings and might issue subpoenas or administer oaths to prepare for formal hearings.
National University of Lesotho, University of Botswana, University of Johannesburg, University of Mauritius, University of Namibia, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of Swaziland, University of the Free State