Only a strike will move Eskom - Numsa official

Johannesburg - If Eskom does not meet demands set by Numsa workers, the union may go ahead with a strike.

This is according to Vuyo Bikitsha, electricity sector coordinator for Numsa. Numsa workers arranged a picket on Monday, outside Eskom head office at Megawatt Park.

"The main purpose of the picket is to pressurise Eskom management into making a proper, fair and reasonable wage offer," said Bikitsha. The workers are calling for South African citizens to understand the issues dividing Numsa and Eskom, he said.

Eskom only introduced a 7% increase across the board. "This is unfair, unreasonable and insufficient," said Bikitsha. Eskom's "moves" have not been significant. For women, five months full wages and 30% wages in the sixth month for maternity leave was introduced, explained Bikitsha.

Last week, wage negotiations reached a deadlock. As a result the CCMA will step in. It has been agreed that conciliation with Eskom will be extended until Monday, 25 July 2016.

Numsa is the only trade union that has formally declared a dispute with the CCMA. They are waiting to join the National Union of Mineworkers and the union Solidarity before taking further strike action.

"Only a strike will move Eskom... A strike is looming," he said. Numsa represents over 10 000 workers at Eskom. A strike will only be successful if various trade unions work together.

"This is just a warning. We are prepared to go for a full-blown strike if they don't meet our demands," added Kau Rasehlo, chairperson of the region, Numsa shop steward committee.

Numsa members strike outside Eskom head office to demand a 'substantial' wage hike.  (Lameez Omarjee, Fin24)

eskom strike

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Eskom recently reported "sound financial results" for the year ending March 2016. All financial ratios have increased and Eskom is doing well, said Bikitsha.

Their "key gripe" is that a 7% increase is proposed but over the past two years, chief executive Brian Molefe's salary "skyrocketed" from R2.95m to R9.5m, excluding benefits and perks. "That's more than 174% increase in two years," he said.

"How can they only give a 7% increase if more than R792m is shared by bosses as executive bonuses?" Workers worked hard for a profit, reported at R4bn. "We are appealing to Eskom's conscience," he said.

Among the demands is a housing allowance of R5 000. The housing allowance is currently R2 600. In terms of bonuses, Numsa demands 25% - "they same as the managers are getting". They are currently getting 12%, according to Rasehlo.  

Bikitsha also mentioned the "oppressive working conditions". Workers can no longer endure oppressive working conditions at a low salary base, he said. A number of workers took resignation packages in 2015.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 earlier on Monday workers have a right to picket and hand over a memorandum of their demands. "We will respect it and respond to it accordingly.”

The power utility is in wage negotiations with unions and believes an agreement that covers their demands will be reached.

Phasiwe said Eskom’s position has moved from an initial increase offering to 5% to 7% for middle management and 9% for the lowest paid workers.

Responding to whether service delivery may be impacted, Phasiwe said: “We hope people won’t down tools; the law does not allow it.” He explained that like the police and army, workers at Eskom are essential service providers and are not allowed to go on strike, by law.

“We will do our best to meet employees half way,” added Phasiwe. He also said workers should remember that Eskom has undertaken a R280bn capital expenditure project which includes the completion of Medupi and Kusile power stations.

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