NUM says it's prepared to sign Eskom wage pact

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) resolved to sign Eskom’s three-year wage agreement provided the power utility doesn’t press ahead with its intention to discipline employees, the union said.

Numsa, however, has called Eskom's decision to call a dispute "ill-advised", with general secretary Irvin Jim describing the union as "dismayed and extremely irritated". 

Eskom declared a dispute with its biggest trade unions after they refused to sign a new wage deal unless the company agreed not to discipline workers who participated in illegal strikes.

Eskom workers aren’t permitted by law to strike, but the company was forced to implement load shedding and reported damage to systems and equipment when talks stalled previously.

'Ready any time'

NUM is "ready to sign the deal any time," NUM President Joseph Montisetse said in an emailed statement. "On the issue of taking disciplinary action against our members, we are saying the matter could be resolved outside the bargaining unit," he said.

"The NUM wants to make it clear that it is against any move to dismiss any worker," the union added.

Eskom has agreed in principle with the unions on salary adjustments of 7.5% in 2018-2019 and 7% in both 2019-20 and 2020-2021, according to the union.

However, Numsa accused ministers and Eskom leadership of not taking the request for an urgent meeting seriously. 

"NUMSA and NUM met on Monday and reflected on the fact that there was still no commitment from the Eskom Board and from the two Ministers and the senior leadership of Eskom," Jim claimed on Thursday. 

"This left a bitter taste in our mouths in that while unions were grappling to find a solution to Eskom problems, its senior leadership had no time to dirty its hands and work with the unions and provide the necessary leadership to resolve the current impasse."

'Extremely frustrated'

Numsa's members "members remain extremely frustrated by stupid delays and tactics employed by Eskom management that continue to postpone the conclusion of a settlement agreement", Jim said. 

The unions were willing to consider corrective disciplinary measures less than dismissal where workers were found by Eskom to have committed acts of misconduct, Numsa said. "We will represent our members within a fair disciplinary process and each and every case will have to be judged on its own merits."

Numsa rejected "the notion that the current wage settlement and the R10 000 lump sum cash payment can be traded for job security", Jim added. 

"We want to state once more that the situation is intensifying as our members will soon be demanding full implementation of what has been secured in negotiations and they are fully rejecting Eskom’s intention to dismiss them."

On Wednesday evening, the power utility reiterated that Eskom was classified as an essential service and said strain placed on the power grid by industrial action could take up to a month to resolve. 

"Eskom reserves its right to follow the disciplinary process in line with the company’s Disciplinary Code and Procedure," Eskom Group Executive for Human Resources Elsie Pule said.

"In an effort to bring the process to a conclusion, Eskom has referred a mutual interest dispute to the CCMA. We remain positive that the process will be expeditiously resolved," she said.

*This story has been updated to include comment from Numsa.

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