Not all unions on board with Eskom wage deal

Johannesburg - Not all unions are on board with Eskom's new wage offer.

Eskom announced on Friday morning that it has reached a two-year wage agreement with its recognised trade unions, ending what it deems to have been illegal strike action by members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Numsa. Solidarity, which was part of the negotiations, did not embark on strike action.

The wage agreement was reached at talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), which intervened in the matter in terms of the Labour Relations Act.

In terms of the two-year agreement, signed by NUM and Solidarity, Eskom employees will see a wage increase of between 8.5% and 10% this year and next year.

In addition, the housing allowance will also be increased by R260 per month this year, and a further R140 per month next year – bringing the total housing allowance to R3 000 per month over the next two years, Eskom confirmed in a statement on Friday.

NUM national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu had told Fin24 earlier about Eskom's revised offer and that members would be consulted about it.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said the agreement was reached after 14-hour negotiations, with the help of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). "It started at 10:00 yesterday and it ended at 01:00 this morning." 

READ: Eskom strike averted after marathon talks

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is still considering the offer and Eskom said it is hopeful that this union too will sign soon.

"The conclusion of this necessary chapter in our business environment enables us to now firmly focus on the task at hand of ensuring that we keep the lights on to enable growth," said Eskom.

"We have actually signed an agreement with Solidarity and NUM... Numsa has agreed in principle but they have not yet signed the agreement." Numsa will go back to communicate with their members first, said Phasiwe.  

Vuyo Bikitsha, electricity sector coordinator for Numsa, said the union still has problems with certain areas in the agreement and is concerned about the working conditions of contract workers. "The issue of outsourcing must come to an end," he said. He described the working conditions as "terrible and bad".   

"They have no job security... They are bullied by Eskom managers and their employers." These workers have been excluded from the benefits of the wage negotiations, he said.

Bikitsha said the union still plans to contest the power utility's decision to get a court interdict against strike action on Tuesday this week. The union wants to "reclaim the right to strike".

The court order prevents certain workers from striking, according to the "minimum service determination", said Bikitsha. Numsa is yet to report to members and get feedback from the different regions.

READ: Eskom warns against illegal strike as NUM downs tools

In terms of the agreement, strike action should not continue. But because the news came through in the early hours of the morning, unions could not communicate with members in time, said Phasiwe. "We are hopeful that things will be back to normal on Monday."

Deon Reyneke, deputy general secretary for the energy industry at Solidarity, said in a statement on Friday that this is one of the best offers Eskom has made to date.

"Our members are more than satisfied with the excellent offer Eskom has put forward. We have, therefore, received a mandate from our members to sign the proposed two-year offer," Reyneke said.

“Our members will now be able to get on with their work as usual after the protracted bargaining process.” He added that Reyneke also explained that the trade union’s members would greatly benefit from the agreement in the current economic conditions.

The offer Solidarity signed includes, for the first year a salary increase of 8.5% across the board for all employees at the highest scale, and an increase of 10% for all employees at the lowest scale. The inreases will be backdated to June 30 2016. The current housing allowance (R2 600) will be increased by 10% (R260). Allowances will increase by 5.6% and five months’ paid maternity leave will apply.

In year two there will be a salary increase of 8.5% across the board for all employees at the highest scale, and an increase of 10% for all employees at the lowest scale. The housing allowance will be increased by R140, totalling R3 000 per month, while allowances will increase by 5.6%.

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