Numsa walks out of Eskom wage talks, unions reject 0% increase offer

(Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)
(Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has walked out of the second round of wage negotiations with Eskom, accusing the power utility of displaying a "hostile attitude towards workers".

The union - which represents 10 000 workers at the power utility - claims Eskom brought "specialised security armed with high calibre weapons" to the negotiation venue in Woodmead, Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Numsa, together with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), rejected the 0% increase opening offer that the cash-strapped power utility put on the table.

Instead, the metalworkers union is demanding a 15% increase 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; paid maternity leave for six months; and paid paternity leave for one month.

NUM has listed similar demands, and wants the housing allowance to be increased from R 3 000 to R7 000.

Eskom's spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, admitted that the talks had not made much progress, but said that the majority of Eskom employees were categorised as essential services staff and barred from embarking on industrial action.

'Rampant looting'

Both Numsa and NUM have taken issue with the allegations of corruption and financial misconduct at the parastatal.

"To date not one cent has been recovered for the mismanagement and rampant looting which has taken place at Eskom over the last 10 years, but they have the gall to deny workers a well-deserved increase," Numsa’s statement read.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) came out to back its affiliate, NUM, on Thursday, accusing government of causing widespread financial problems at Eskom.

"There is not a single crook that has been arrested for the looting at Eskom, and yet the Board and the management have the audacity to deny workers salary increases. Eskom’s leadership and government need to be held accountable for what has happened to the power utility over last ten years.

"Workers have been continuously fleeced by the same utility through above-inflation tariff hikes, and then they have the cheek to deny workers salary adjustments," said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

Eskom 'like a pariah'

Phasiwe told Fin24

However, Phasiwe said the power utility could not afford anything above the 0% increases on offer, as it was "going through a bad financial spell".

"We are starting from a very low base. Before January this year, we were almost like a pariah [to lenders]," Phasiwe said.

Phasiwe denied that the parastatal had not taken action against allegations of corruption and said that some of the people involved had been suspended, fired, or had resigned of their own accord.

"The chairperson [Jabu Mabuza] says they won’t be exonerated from criminal charges, even if they left Eskom."

The wage talks started last week and the second round has been set down until Friday.

Phasiwe said that if there were a need, Eskom would meet unions next week, or labour could choose to declare a dispute and bring in an independent mediator.

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