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EXCLUSIVE: NUM demands 15% wage hike from Eskom, Solidarity CPI +3%

EXCLUSIVE: NUM demands 15% wage hike from Eskom, Solidarity CPI +3%
National Union of Mineworkers and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members protest outside Eskom's Megawatt Park. (Photo: Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Christopher Moagi)

South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers has tabled demands for a wage hike of 15% across the board from cash-strapped power utility Eskom, according to documents seen by Business Maverick. The Solidarity trade union for its part wants CPI plus 3%, according to documents. 

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is the largest union at Eskom with about 14,000 members on the SOE’s payroll, was expected to table demands above inflation, which on an annual basis was running at 7% in February. Its demands for 15% are over double that, but that is also par for the course when it comes to wage talks: aim high. 

“As a start, NUM will not allow to have any of its conditions of service tempered with in these negotiations,” (sic) says the document outlining NUM’s demands, which is dated 11 April. “The apartheid wage gap should be finalized as per agreement. Salary increase: 15% Salary increase across the board.” 

Solidarity, which mostly represents skilled workers, is aiming for less but still above inflation. 

“Solidarity submit that an across-the-board salary increase of the average Consumer Price Index (CPI) of the 12 months prior to the salary increase, plus an additional THREE (3) per cent will be fair and just,” says the document outlining its demands, dated 6 April. “Solidarity’s mandate is to negotiate a multi-year agreement.” 

Numsa is the other main union at Eskom and while Business Maverick has not seen its demands, it is safe to assume that they will also be well above inflation. 

The services provided by Eskom staff are deemed “essential” and this prevents them from downing tools in a protected strike. But last year there was wildcat action and protests — that the leaders of all unions disavowed — which underscored the simmering anger of the rank and file at Eskom. 

In the end, Eskom settled last year for an across-the-board 7% wage hike which analysts warned it could ill afford. 

A repeat of the mayhem of 2022 is possible again this year, especially if management’s counteroffer is well short of inflation. And this is unfolding as Eskom’s power cuts, which are crippling the economy, look set to potentially ramp up as winter descends. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eskom signs one-year agreement with unions for 7% wage hike while load shedding rolls on

Part of the backdrop is the ongoing cost of living crisis, with food inflation at 13-year highs of over 13% and interest rates rising. South Africa’s working and middle classes are hard-pressed and this is surely driving wage demands. And Eskom’s debt relief package will not be lost on the unions. 

But Eskom remains in a precarious financial situation with a “business model” that really sucks — please consume less of our product, which we are providing less of anyway! At the same time, a workforce that is not seeing red is clearly needed for crucial maintenance to be done and for Eskom to function as best as it can in its awful set of circumstances. 

Meanwhile, winter is coming. DM/BM 

Gallery

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  • R S says:

    At this point we have to look at the fact that the unions are, for the most part, as parasitic as the criminal organisations at Eskom.

    If you have the ability to do so, prepare for stage 8+ around negotiation time, but maybe the government will put in some preemptive measures to protect the plants. But who am I kidding, this is the ANC we’re talking about.

  • A Fer says:

    It’s now clear why we have suddenly dropped to stage 6 load shedding…
    No doubt the chief clown of electricity will pressurize Eskom to accept these ludicrous demands ( elections are after all just around the corner) after having bowed to the coal lobby in suggesting more investment in keeping coal fired stations going ( even though new renewable energy is now way cheaper than coal).

  • William Kelly says:

    Drop the workforce to what is actually needed and 15% would be cheap! Doesn’t matter either way actually because Eskom as we knows it is going away. It’s redundant, and will be replaced – in a few short years the headcount will be a (small) fraction of what it is now. Pay the 15% and hasten the demise so that we can get it over and done with and move on.

  • Robert Douglas says:

    How is DM getting its message across to the man in the street ? To those who don’t necessarily have access to electronic media ? Are there efforts being made through radio, TV & various newspapers ? I sense many of us are going in circles beating the same old drum concerning the absolute failure of the ANC- led government to address matters like power generation, hospital services, & in particular upliftment of the majority in many ways , including job creation, developing new homes , education , etc, etc. The people need to be addressed & informed !

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