Trade unions plan Eskom shutdown on Thursday over wages

Cash-strapped power utility Eskom is finally tackling the controversial issue of its headcount.
Cash-strapped power utility Eskom is finally tackling the controversial issue of its headcount.

Update: Eskom has replied to say that, while it sympathises with workers who will not get salary increases, they are not allowed to participate in strikes. Should the industrial action take place, Eskom said it would activate contingency measures to ensure security of power supply. 


Johannesburg - Two trade unions will hold a one day shutdown at Eskom on Thursday over 0% salary increases, despite many workers being barred from striking as they are deemed to render essential services.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) met on Monday at the NUM offices in the Johannesburg CBD to discuss a joint plan to the wage negotiations impasse.

The two unions are demanding a 15% increases across the board, a housing allowance increase of R2 000, the banning of labour brokers and the insourcing of workers such as cleaners and security guards.

They also want paid maternity leave for six months and paid paternity leave for one month.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said the march would be held outside Eskom’s head office in Sunninghill on Thursday. More details would be provided at a joint press conference on Tuesday.

"They [workers] are aware they are essential services and they are willing to take the risk," Mammburu told Fin24.

Eskom is in a difficult financial situation, having been granted approximately a quarter of its tariff increase application for 2018/2019. It has said it cannot afford wage hikes for employees.

Mammburu and Numsa, meanwhile, have blamed "state capture" for the power utility’s financial woes.

"They [workers] are not the ones responsible for the corruption and mismanagement of funds."

Certain sections of workers who provide critical amenities are deemed as essential services and may not embark on a strike action. 

A service or industry may be designated as an essential service by the Essential Services Committee, who consult with government and labour before making the decision. 

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) then allows parties who work in designated essential services to enter into a collective agreement, which can regulate the minimum services to be provided by workers during industrial action.

Employees who disregard the minimum service levels during a strike face the risk of a disciplinary inquiry by the employer, which could lead to dismissal. 

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