Unions snub Eskom's 4.7% wage hike, await feedback on package of issues

Irvin Jim  (Photo: Bongiwe Gumede)
Irvin Jim (Photo: Bongiwe Gumede)

Unions negotiating wage increases with power utility Eskom say they have rejected the offer of a 4.7% wage increase, but are waiting to hear back about a 'comprehensive' a list of issues they presented to the utility.  

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity met with Eskom representatives on Wednesday to restart wage negotiations.  

Irvin Jim, the general secretary of Numsa, said at a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon that the three unions presented a comprehensive package of issues to the power utility in the early afternoon.  

Jim said the submissions dealt not only with wages, but with other challenges facing the cash-strapped power utility. 

He argued that, if Eskom were to implement the proposals the unions submitted, it would be in a stronger position to offer real wage increases to workers.

“What we are grappling with is what must be done to fix Eskom’s balance sheet,” he said. 

He did not say what the issues were, saying he was not at liberty to talk about them.

Jim said the unions were now waiting to hear back from Eskom.   

“I can confirm that we have bargained here today, we have bargained on wages, we have bargained on the core demands, and all that is not with us now. The pressure is on Eskom to reflect." 

Jim said unions and Eskom would hold a follow-up meeting at 10:00 on Thursday. 

Tomorrow is another day 

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 that the utility’s representatives at the negotiations would bring the unions' submissions to the Eskom leadership.

“From our side, we can say that we still have another day of negotiations tomorrow (Thursday). We will do everything possible within our means to resolve the impasse. Our team is going back to get a fresh mandate from constituencies like they will,” said Phasiwe.

Asked about how confident Eskom was about breaking the wage deadlock before it caused further pressure to the already constrained electricity system, Phasiwe expressed optimism that both sides could adjust their stance and meet in the middle.

“Tomorrow (Thursday) is a new day and a new opportunity to get to the bottom of this. For as long as there is not resolution it continues to have a negative impact on the company. We can’t afford this impasse to continue for such a long time,” Phasiwe said.

He said Eskom had on Wednesday issued notices to municipalities to ask that the load be reduced on the system. 

As of 16:20, the power utility had not yet instituted load shedding. But it did earlier issue an alert to warn of possible stage 1 load shedding between 17:00 to 21:00.

“Should load shedding be implemented this evening it would be for a period of up to four hours,” Eskom warned.

“We have a very difficult operation ahead in recovering units that were offline,” said Phasiwe.

“Our recovery plans are supposed to last for ten days and during then we might have difficulty in ensuring continued power supply,” he said.

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