Eskom pleads with unions not to strike

2010-07-01 14:23

Eskom CEO Brian Dames today pleaded with trade unions representing

the parastatal’s staff not to proceed with a planned strike next week.

Dames said: “There were critics who constantly said we were not

going to be able to host the Fifa World Cup and they have been proven

wrong.

“My plea to all our trade unions is for them and everyone else to

put South Africa first and not to go on strike at this point or even later, and

put South Africa in the spotlight.”

The plea came after two unions representing the majority of Eskom’s

workers, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of

Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), yesterday confirmed strike notices, paving the way

for workers to down tools in the final week of the soccer World Cup.

The unions rejected Eskom’s latest offer of an 8.5% wage increase

and R1 000 housing allowance.

They had demanded a 9% increase and a R2 500 housing

allowance.

Dames said Eskom remained open for discussion with the unions: “We

appeal to them to adopt this course rather than to take action which could

damage Eskom, threaten security of supply and the economy, while causing

reputational damage to South Africa during this highly successful soccer World

Cup tournament.”

Any strike action at Eskom would be illegal and unprotected, he

said: “By engaging in such action, workers would be exposing themselves to

disciplinary and other action. We have clear disciplinary measures in the

company. We can’t prejudge the outcome of our disciplinary actions but we will

be firm in implementing them.”

If the unions were to embark on a protracted strike, it would

disrupt power supply.

Dames said: “If I sit here and say the strike will have no negative

impact, I will be lying. This is a serious issue and we are not taking it

lightly. We need all our workers.”

The power utility had contingency plans to limit the impact of the

unions’ actions on consumers “for a few days”, if industrial action did take

place, said Dames.

Eskom’s customer network business chief officer Erica Johnson said

the company believed there was a possibility of rolling power outages, depending

on the strike’s impact.

Johnson said: “We cannot say for sure that there will be power

outages. We do believe that it is a possibility, but we do not foresee

it.”

Bhabhalazi Bulunga, Eskom’s human resources director, said the

parastatal had not received any strike notice.

The strike would be illegal because Eskom was an essential service

and its employees were therefore not allowed to go on strike, he said.

He said a High Court interdict issued on May 25, which reaffirmed

that Eskom had been declared an essential service, and that strikes were

therefore prohibited, still stood.

Bulunga said: “The unions did not contest the court order,

therefore it still stands. Police will take over if a court order is violated or

an illegal act is performed. This is a country of laws and we must all abide by

the laws.”

Dames said Eskom would proceed with its application for arbitration

on the dispute in terms of the legal process specified by the Labour Relations

Act for resolution of disputes at companies declared essential services.

The arbitrator’s decision would be binding on both Eskom and the

unions, he said: “Our offer is way above the rate of inflation and higher than

what was offered in our revenue application by the regulator.”



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