Business Maverick

POWER CRISIS

Deadlocked Eskom wage talks to resume on 13 June, unions to consolidate demands

Deadlocked Eskom wage talks to resume on 13 June, unions to consolidate demands
(Photo: Leon Sadiki / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Wage talks between Eskom and three unions will resume on 13 June, with the sides still far apart. But some movement has been made and there have been no reports of protests or unprotected walkouts of the kind that occurred during last year’s tense negotiations.

With an inconclusive end to the scheduled third round of wage talks, a trio of unions and Eskom have agreed to a fourth round on 13 and 14 June. That is a hopeful sign, as a dispute could have been declared after the third round failed to reach an agreement, which would have sent the process to conciliation.

The unions have rejected Eskom’s latest wage offer of a 5.25% pay hike, which is 1.5 percentage points above the initial 3.75% it laid on the table. The National Union of Mineworkers’ latest demand is 11% and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s is 12%. Both had initially put down 15%.  

The Solidarity union’s demand has shifted from CPI — which was 6.8% in April — plus 3%, to 9.5%.

The three unions will now attempt to consolidate their demands and expect a revised offer from Eskom when they meet again.

“We might not be able to consolidate all demands but there will be attempts to align on housing allowance and the wage percentage increase,” a union source said.

Eskom said in a statement, “… all parties reached a settlement on the amendment of the Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures”. 

This clears one hurdle, but the wage increase is the biggest issue yet to be resolved.

Last year’s wage talks, which ended with a 7% across-the-board pay increase, were marred by protests and unprotected walkouts by some Eskom employees who are not legally allowed to down tools because their service is deemed to be essential.

There have been no reports of such disruptions during these talks, which are taking place against the backdrop of a surge in the power cuts that are slashing economic growth and fuelling inflation.

Eskom has maintained that it cannot afford increases that match inflation. But the unions say that labour is a relatively small part of the state-owned enterprise’s overall costs and that it must address the corruption and mismanagement which is robbing it of capital.  

As Stage 8 power cuts loom this winter, at least the sides are still talking. DM 

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