Eskom calls for all parties to 'put citizens first' ahead of wage talks with unions

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Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
  • Eskom and unions are set to start a new round of negotiations next week to hash out a three-year wage deal. 
  • The National Union of Mineworkers and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa are demanding a 15% increase, while Solidarity wants a 9.5% hike. 
  • The power utility has warned that the talks may be "unpredictable" and could result in "tensions arising".

Power utility Eskom has called for all parties to put the "best interests of the country and its citizens first" ahead of the start of "unpredictable" wage talks with unions next week.

On Tuesday, Eskom will start wage negotiations with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and Solidarity for non-managerial employees.

The talks are scheduled to continue for a month. The negotiations are meant to hash out a new three-year wage deal, although some unions are demanding a one-year deal.

"We would like to appeal to all the parties to the talks to conduct themselves in a manner that puts respect for the law, best interests of the country and its citizens first, and to do everything possible to avoid any unnecessary disturbances," the cash-strapped power utility said on Friday.

"This is particularly crucial as Eskom is, by law, providing a critical essential service."

Eskom has a debt burden of R463.7 billion and does not earn enough from selling electricity at current prices to pay off the interest.

  • The NUM, the largest union at Eskom, is entering the talks with a demand for a 15% wage increase, as well as a housing allowance hike from R3 500 to R7 000.
  • Solidarity has tabled a 9.5% salary increase, as well as a work-from-home allowance of R1 000.
  • NUMSA is asking for a 15% wage increase, a one-year agreement, and the ending of salary disparities.

The last series of wage talks took place in 2018. At the time, NUM and NUMSA called for a 15% wage hike, while Solidarity wanted a 9% hike.

The negotiations initially collapsed after Eskom offered a 0% wage increase, leading to strikes, pickets and the threat of a long-term shutdown. The utility and unions later settled on a 7% increase in August 2018. 

The following year, Eskom CEO's Phakamani Hadebe stepped down, citing "unimaginable demands which have unfortunately had a negative impact on my health".

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