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The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the largest labour union with some 1,7-million members, has its headquarters in Johannesburg.

South Africa has sophisticated labour legislation which closely defines employer and employee rights. The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) are organisations designed to facilitate negotiations between business, labour and government, and have proved effective in settling labour disputes. Both are located in Johannesburg.

The CCMA conducted a total of 47 520 conciliations between April 2000 and March 2001, and had an 81% settlement rate. In the same period the CCMA conducted a total of 56 251 arbitrations, in which 47% had an arbitration award rendered, 12% were settled by reverting to the conciliation process, 12% were settled by the parties or withdrawn, and 15% were dismissed.

Cases referred to the CCMA involved 74% dismissals, with 9% classed as unfair labour practices, dropping to 3% severance pay cases. Most dispute referrals were in the retail sector, at 19%. Building and construction comprised 7%, while the mining sector had 4% of the total dispute referrals.