The con-arb process is compulsory in only two instances. In other cases it's optional and you don't have to accept con-arb. Instead you'll follow the conciliation then the arbitration process.
When faced with these two disputes, you have to accept the con-arb process:
The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service explains that in all other instances where the CCMA can use con-arb, it isn't compulsory. You have the right to object to con-arb and you can't be forced into the process.
The simple act of lodging your objection will ensure it won't occur. You don't have to give reasons for why you're objecting and the CCMA is obliged to accept your objection.
These are the kinds of cases where it might be better for you to object to con-arb:
#1: If it's a complicated case with a number of witnesses and documents and if you think there's a good chance you might be able to settle in conciliation, then you won't want to waste time preparing for arbitration;
#2: When you want to give yourself more time to prepare your case for arbitration; or
#3: Times when it's not clear from the LRA Form 7.11 exactly what the nature of your employee's complaint is. You may want to use the conciliation procedure to find out what it is, so you can make it easier for you to prepare at a later date.
Remember, you can't object to con-arb if the dispute is a dismissal for any reason relating to probation or for any unfair labour practice relating to probation.
The bottom line: If you go to con-arb you need to be fully prepared to run the arbitration if you don't settle the dispute. So make sure you know when to object to con-arb.