Eskom wage talks still unresolved, set to continue next week

Negotiations between Eskom and unions are set to continue next week Wednesday, as negotiators for the power utility still have to consult with Eskom's board on union demands. 

Negotiations between Eskom employees and the power utility resumed earlier this week after initially reaching a deadlock after the cash-strapped utility offered a 0% increase, saying it had no money to pay more. 

After threats of strikes, allegations by Eskom of sabotage and intimidation - which the unions have denied, and the intervention of Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan, Eskom tabled a new offer of a 4.7% wage increase.

This has been rejected by the unions

The three unions at the power utility – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity – are presenting a united front for the relaunched negotiations. 

In a joint statement after Thursday's round of negotiations ended, NUM, Numsa and Solidarity criticised Eskom for "playing games", saying no deal was reached. 

"Today we reconvened, expecting Eskom to respond comprehensively to our proposed turnaround strategy and our wage demands. Unfortunately, the Eskom management informed us that it does not have a mandate to respond to our core demands because it must first consult the board of Eskom," the statement said. 

"It is unacceptable that when the entire nation is waiting with bated breath for an outcome on these wage talks, Eskom continues to play games with the process."

The unions said the reason for the deadlock in the first round of talks was that the Eskom negotiating team was unable to take decisions on its own without consulting the power utility's board.

This was again drawing out negotiations, the unions argued. 

"If there are power outages, they are quick to place the blame on our members when they have demonstrated complete disdain for the process. We condemn the Eskom board for refusing to take this process seriously."

The unions demanded that when negotiations resume next week, the power utility sends a "powered delegation" that is able to make decisions without requiring board feedback. 

Deputy Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae, meanwhile, told Fin24 on Thursday afternoon that the two sides had agreed to again meet on Wednesday. 

"The negotiators will go back to leadership and until the negotiations continue, there isn’t much that can be said on the matter," she said.

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