Unions slam Eskom for ‘collapsing wage talks and declaring war’

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Eskom ended the wage negotiations with unions on Tuesday and declared a dispute at the CCMA. Photo: Mpumelelo Buthelezi
Eskom ended the wage negotiations with unions on Tuesday and declared a dispute at the CCMA. Photo: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

BUSINESS


Three major unions have slammed Eskom of negotiating in bad faith after the power utility ended the wage negotiations and declared a dispute this week.

In an unprecedented move, Eskom ended the wage negotiations with unions on Tuesday and declared a dispute at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the power utility declared a dispute at the CCMA because it was not able to reach an agreement in the central bargaining forum wage negotiations with the three unions – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), and Solidarity.

Mantshantsha said NUM, Numsa and Solidarity rejected the power utility’s 1.5% salary increase, conditional on the unions accepting certain variations in some benefits of the employees and demanded basic salary increases of 10%, 12% and 9.5%, respectively.

“These were in addition to other demands for the increases of an average 15% in the benefits enjoyed by the employees. Eskom, which relies on taxpayers cash bailouts to maintain its going concern status, has clearly demonstrated these demands are unaffordable,” he said.

Numsa has since accused Eskom of acting in bad faith and lying to the public, while NUM said it viewed the move by Eskom as a “declaration of war”.

READ: Cosatu hits back in public sector wage dispute

However, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, the Numsa spokesperson, said Eskom continued to mislead the public by claiming that the wage demands made by employees were unaffordable.

“Eskom has been negotiating in bad faith from the beginning of these talks. From the first day of wage talks, they made an offer of 1.5%. Numsa and NUM made adjustments to our original demands and we reduced our wage demands but Eskom did not budge at all during the negotiations,” said Hlubi-Majola.

“They have not made a single concession while we demonstrated we are flexible and are willing to negotiate. This is the definition of negotiating in bad faith because they [Eskom] are not willing to compromise, but instead choose to impose their position.”

They [Eskom] are not willing to compromise, but instead choose to impose their position
Phakamile Hlubi-Majola

Hlubi-Majola also accused Eskom of taking money set aside for worker’s increases. She said the National Energy Regulator of SA had allocated a 5.4% minimum increase for workers’ salary package at Eskom. She claimed the power utility used this money to benefit coal supply companies instead of paying workers.

Hlubi-Majola added that Numsa rejected Eskom’s 1.5% offer because Eskom recently gave Seriti/South32 a 49% increase and agreed to pay R4 billion more for 30 million tons of coal for four years.

“Last year, Eskom spent R71 billion on coal as part of its generation costs and R28 billion on REIPPs [renewable energy independent power producers],” she said.

NUM spokesperson Khangela Baloyi said Eskom’s decision to declare a dispute during the wage negotiations showed that the power utility did not want to bargain.

“We are only on the first day of round three – already they are declaring a dispute which means we are going to have to go to the CCMA and finish the negotiations there,” Baloyi said.

READ: Fired Eskom boss exposed tender flaws

“This shows that Eskom wanted to collapse these negotiations from the beginning. But now we want to inform everyone that we are back to the original demand of 15% and all other elements that were with it.”

Before the collapse of the negotiations on Tuesday, the majority union NUM, lowered its wage demand from 15% to 10%, while Numsa also revised its demand from 15% to 12%.

Hlubi-Majola said now that Eskom had lodged a dispute, the unions have to wait for the conciliation process of the CCMA to unfold.

She added that in the interim Numsa would mobilise its members and all workers at Eskom to picket during their lunchtime to highlight their demands.


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