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