Eskom: After week of bedlam and more Stage 6, unions' wage decision expected on Tuesday

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  • Unions in wage talks with Eskom are meeting on Tuesday to finalise an agreement after a strike-related protest triggered Stage 6 load shedding last week. 
  • National Union of Mineworkers energy sector co-ordinator Khangela Baloyi said the union expected to hold a council meeting to consider Eskom's wage offer. 
  • Solidarity deputy secretary in the public sector Helgarde Cronjé said it was in South Africa's best interest that an agreement is reached.

After a weekend of marathon meetings with Eskom leadership to reach a wage agreement with unions, labour is likely to emerge with a position on whether to accept the power utility's latest wage offer on Tuesday.

The unions - the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), and Solidarity - resumed wage negotiations on Friday after a deadlock in wage talks triggered strike protests at several Eskom plants, hindering vital maintenance work and plunging the country into Stage 6 load shedding.

After an intervention from Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, NUM and Numsa went back to negotiations at the Central Bargaining Forum. Solidarity criticised the protest disruptions and the ensuing load shedding.

Eskom constitutes an essential service, which restricts the ability of workers at the entity to down tools in a wage dispute. Eskom management said last week that they are in discussions with police about investigating the protest disruptions and intimidation, with possible disciplinary action and dismissals on the cards.

Eskom resumed wage talks with a revised offer of 7%. As talks resumed the NUM's demand stood at 10% while Numsa's demand was 12%. Solidarity's last demand was 5.9%.

READ | Stage 6 load shedding to resume on Monday afternoon, Eskom announces

NUM energy sector co-ordinator Khangela Baloyi told Fin24 that the union expected to hold a council meeting with Numsa to consider Eskom's wage offer, the outcome of which will be finalised by Tuesday.

"We are meeting on Tuesday to finalise the wage agreement. We have a joint council with Numsa to consider the offer tomorrow morning [Tuesday]. Will probably know by tomorrow," said Baloyi.

Baloyi told Fin24 that it was not clear as yet whether workers who were caught protesting at plants would face disciplinary action or dismissal as a result of disruptions to the electricity system.

READ | Reprieve from Stage 6 load shedding on Friday afternoon as demand drops

Solidarity deputy secretary in the public sector Helgarde Cronjé  said no agreement had been reached with Eskom regarding shielding employees from disciplinary action and the union saw no need for it. 

"The actions were illegal and should be treated as such in terms of Eskom's disciplinary code. We would however not like to comment on this matter in any further detail at this stage. The timing is just not right," said Cronjé.

Cronjé said the Eskom wage negotiations were at a critical stage and that it was in South Africa's best interest that an agreement is reached between unions and Eskom to ensure labour stability and some sort of return to normal.

"There is a drafted settlement agreement for the wage negotiations that NUM and Numsa have taken back to their members. Parties are meeting again tomorrow to give feedback. We trust you would understand the current sensitivity around the matter," Cronjé said.

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