Eskom, unions in war of words about wages, bonuses


Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) says it is not ruling out strike action against Eskom for rejecting its wage claims. 

Eskom is offering 7%, which Numsa says is far below what the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) has allocated for manpower cost increases.

This is a decision taken by Numsa’s national shop stewards council comprising shop stewards working for Eskom during a two-day meeting.

Numsa says it is common knowledge that electricity generation, transmission and distribution was designated an essential service in 1997 by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration's essential services committee (ESC).

Numsa has declared a dispute in the ESC against Eskom’s generation, transmission and distribution of electricity’s designation as an essential service and says the union is waiting for a date for a hearing to rescind this decision.

It says the whole of Eskom is not engaged in an essential service and some employees should be allowed the right to strike as entrenched in the Constitution.

Numsa said in a statement: "It is our argument that most probably the Labour Relations Act provisions for essential services are against the constitutionally entrenched right to strike and it is on this basis that we are considering a challenge against any interdict against any strike in Eskom.

"Numsa is also talking about this matter with the other unions which are organising in Eskom for us to take joint strike action against Eskom."

Numsa and other unions have agreed with Eskom to schedule another round of negotiations to attempt to reach an amicable solution to the disputes.

Numsa said it had received a date of July 7 for conciliating the disputes against Eskom’s refusal to disclose certain requested relevant information for the collective bargaining process as well as its refusal to extend the bargaining unit to also include all managerial employees. 

Respective membership

Eskom said in a statement meanwhile that it was in wage negotiations with its three recognised trade unions, namely Numsa, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity, that commenced in May 2016.

It said the third round of negotiations, held between June 20 - 22, had been scheduled to be the last.

Eskom presented its final offer of 7% across the board for all employees.

At the end of the proceedings the trade unions requested time to engage their respective membership and revert back to Eskom.

A final round of negotiations was scheduled for July 13 - 15.

Eskom said the unions tabled a range of demands on the increase in basic salary ranging between 9.5% and 20%. Demands around the improvement of current employee benefits and the introduction of new benefits implied an increase in the total cost of employment of between 10% and 35%.

In terms of the Eskom's conditions of service, bargaining unit employee salary increases are due for implementation annually on 1 July.

It said during the nine days of negotiations, the trade unions made limited adjustments to some of the demands tabled. Eskom on 22 June 22 tabled a final salary offer with the following key elements:

- A 7% across the board increase for all employees;

- A further increase based on a sliding scale ranging between 0% and 2% for employees in the lower half of the salary scale. The implication is that employees will receive a salary increase ranging between 7% and 9% if the Eskom offer is implemented. The implication being that 44% of bargaining unit employees will receive an increase of between 8% and 9%;

- The offer also includes an adjustment of 5.6% to key allowances impacting on the operational side of the business.

Eskom said during talks on July 23 on the payment of performance bonuses for the previous financial year, it was raised that there was a perception that black women were paid less than their counterparts.

Statistics from the latest report by Eskom’s employment equity committees seemed to point to the fact that black women were indeed rated lower than their counterparts during performance appraisal cycles. As a collective, management and organised labour were required to come up with interventions to eradicate these barriers.

Eskom pointed out that it remained committed to the advancement of women, especially black women. It urged NUM to engage Eskom in a constructive manner to be part of this process to deal with legacies of the past.

NUM said in the meantime that it was unhappy with Eskom executives awarding themselves bonuses totalling millions.

READ:  Eskom sees deeper cost cuts over NUM's demands

It said it was extremely disappointed by the decision taken by Eskom executives to pay themselves a whopping R6m per person from the bonus pool of R1.7bn.

NUM said Eskom executives had deliberately leaked the document to employees to weaken NUM  during its consultation with the members.

It said in a meeting with the Eskom's group executive of human resources,  Elsie Pule stated that: “Black female employees in Eskom are poor performers and as such they deserve below minimum salary increases”.

NUM said it felt  that Pule had insulted black female employees who perform three times higher to receive recognition and acceptance in the patriarchal workplace.

"We canvass the NUM women structure and all progressive women organisations to fight against this blatant discriminatory practices 22 years into our democracy."

It said it would convene a national shop steward council meeting for July 1 "where a decision will be taken on the conduct of the Eskom executive. The wage negotiations and the performance bonuses will also be interrogated and NUM will get the mandate from its members to accept or reject the offer.

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