EXCLUSIVE

NUM plans court action as Eskom implements conditional 1.5% basic wage hike

By Ed Stoddard 25 June 2021
Caption
(Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

The National Union of Mineworkers is heading to court because it regards Eskom’s decision to implement a conditional basic wage hike of 1.5% as unlawful. Eskom claims it has the right to do so and it looks like the courts may have the final say. 

Ed Stoddard

Eskom said on Friday morning that it had “exercised its right and made a decision to implement its final 1.5% basic wage increase and changes to the conditions of service offer with effect from 01 July 2021”. 

Wage talks broke down on 2 June and a meeting a fortnight ago at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) failed to resolve the dispute. The three unions involved in the talks are the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity. The impasse has been referred to the CCMA for arbitration and it is not clear exactly when that process will take place. 

Unions are prevented from going on strike at Eskom because its services are considered to be essential. 

NUM, which has been demanding a 15% wage hike, holds that Eskom’s implementation move is unlawful and it is therefore taking the matter to court, according to a letter it sent to Eskom on Thursday and which Business Maverick has obtained.

“In protection of employees’ rights, be informed that NUM will be activating applicable judicial measures shortly in this regard,” the letter says. “NUM asserts on record that your intent to implement Eskom’s final salary offer while ‘compulsory arbitration’ is still to take place is unlawful.”

The bottom line is that in NUM’s view, an employer cannot implement a change to wages or working conditions before the arbitration outcome is finally reached. 

Eskom’s financial situation is fragile but NUM has long maintained that its members should not be penalised because of past mismanagement and outright looting at the ailing SOE. There is certainly a lot of bad blood between the union and Eskom’s current management. 

Eskom, for its part, maintains that the adjustments it plans to implement next week “will enable management to better protect jobs at Eskom, address and manage the risk to the organisation’s sustainability, allowing Eskom to play its critical role of supplying electricity to the South African economy and in the public interest”. 

In the current climate, Eskom would almost certainly have had a strike on its hands if such a route was legal. It remains to be seen how far NUM’s planned judicial challenge goes and the road that other unions will take. DM/BM

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  • What private company would give pay rises if it is broke, and owes its bankers and funders a fortune! In a structurally contracting economy overlayed with the ravages of covid, thousands of businesses are cutting wages and salaries, employees and business owners grateful to maintain some income flow. Hard earned savings are being eroded. This is acting responsibly in crisis, war like circumstances. The ANC, the public sector, SOE’s continue to act ideologically not rationally. We tax and rate payers are simply expected to endlessly pay their rising costs. Time Government/public sector led by example, instead of making more and more rules, adding to cost, diminishing efficiency, and acting the big deal authoritarians. I have a great deal of respect for our President, but sometimes one wonders whether he, and more so many his ANC colleagues, think of the impact of their words. At outset of his Presidency he asked the private sector to join hands with Government and rebuild from the disaster of No. 1 JZ years. Well Mr President we never went anywhere. We had our necks through the yoke, keeping the economy going whilst the ANC cardes ravished our land. Good to see you are trying your best to sort out the mess. Welcome back. Now get the ANC to speak with one voice, so we know what we are voting for, or let it split so factions can follow /promote their different policies, prove to us your intentions are real, based on the factual realities of the possible, and are sustainable.

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