Eskom has decided to implement its final offer to unions of a 1.5% wage increase from 1 July.
The power utility says that after engagements with unions via the Central Bargaining Forum since last month, it has “exercised its right and made a decision to implement its final 1.5% basic wage increase and changes to the conditions of service offer”.
The wage talks ended on 2 June, with Eskom declaring a dispute when it could not reach agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity. No resolution could be reached at the conciliation and mediation process on 10 June at the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) head office.
The unions then referred the dispute to the CCMA for arbitration, which still needs to happen.
The NUM and Numsa wanted a 15% wage hike, while Solidarity asked for 9.5%.
But on Friday, Eskom said that its 1.5% wage hike is also dependent on the cutting of employee benefits "where there are excesses". Eskom has identified possible adjustments in the overtime, travel and transfer benefits, among others.
"Colleagues, as proud, caring and committed South Africans, we cannot allow a dispute over wages to compromise our national interest and hold hard working South Africans and their families hostage, as a result,” said Eskom group chief executive André de Ruyter in a statement to employees.
Eskom urges all its employees and labour unions to put the national interest and respect for the rule of law first.
"Eskom would like to remind all stakeholders that the generation, distribution and transmission of electricity are classified as essential services. Eskom employees are therefore legally prohibited from participation in unlawful industrial action," the utility said in a statement.
The NUM has described the Eskom final salary offer which the company tool while compulsory arbitration was still to take place is "unlawful" while Solidarity described it as "premature".
Both unions lamented that their members were unable to legally go on strike at they are regarded as essential service.
"Eskom employees are classified as essential workers they cannot legally go out on strike, which would have been the next step under normal circumstances. The only step left to resolve the dispute is arbitration," Solidarity said.
"We also do not view Eskom's 1.5% increase as an offer because it is conditional in that employees should also accept a downward variation in conditions of employment, " said Helgard Cronjé, Solidarity Deputy General Secretary for Public Sector.
The union also dismissed the narrative that an average Eskom employee earned more R700, 000 per annum, calling it a "manipulated statistic." It said employees in the bargaining unit earned on average an annual salary of less than R400, 000.