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Eskom strike: Workers tell of battle for decent wages

Economy

Kagiso Segale who has been working for Eskom for six years said it wants to "teach its arrogant employer a lesson" by striking.

Segale is struggling to make ends meet despite having a full time job. A breadwinner and father of three children, Segale feels that the power utility does not look after its employees despite the fact the Eskom's fortunes have now changed. The company is making money but Segale said working hard does not mean a salary increase.

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Eskom employees down tools despite the illegal strike putting their jobs on risk, Braamfontein, Gauteng.
Picture: Itumeleng English584
Eskom employees down tools despite the illegal strike putting their jobs on risk, Braamfontein, Gauteng.
Picture: Itumeleng EnglishEskom employees down tools despite the illegal strike putting their jobs on risk, Braamfontein, Gauteng.
Picture: Itumeleng EnglishEskom employees down tools despite the illegal strike putting their jobs on risk, Braamfontein, Gauteng.
Picture: Itumeleng EnglishKagiso Segale, Eskom employees down tools despite the illegal strike putting their jobs on risk, Braamfontein, Gauteng.
Picture: Itumeleng English

"I am struggling to survive, my wife does not work and I must look after her and my three children"

Segale, is one of the thousands of workers affiliated to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) demanding a wage increase. Eskom failed to meet workers demands after ongoing talks with the union.

Eskom is offering a 7.5 percent salary increase, however workers among other demands, want a double digit wage increase and a housing allowance of R5 000.

According to NUM the lowest paid worker at Eskom earns about R9 000.

Segale told Independent Media that he has been working for the company for six years with no salary increase. "Most of us do not get salary reviews and are on the same salary grade for years now. We have more responsibilities but the money does not increase."

Despite the fact that there has been a court interdict barring employees from embarking on a strike, Segale stood outside Eskom's office in Johannesburg on Thursday chanting struggle songs in hope that Eskom "realises how much it is making its workers suffer''.

About 50 workers were outside the head office as mass strike actions took place at major power stations across the country. Segale said even though the strike is illegal, he feels this is the only way Eskom will listen.

"Eskom may say that it is illegal for us to strike, that is just an excuse so that we can go to work. It is our right to strike. It allows us to raise our issues because they are not listening."

Segale said that most of his colleagues feel the same disappointment. He added that the cost of living is too much for him to cope with and he will not back down until his salary increases. "We are tired of just listening to whatever Eskom says, whatever they give, we must just take. We will not allow this to carry on."

A female protester who wished to remain anonymous in fear of being victimised held up a placard saying "Eskom show respect to black women. Pay them decent salaries."

The angered female who is a senior technician said she is tired of being sidelined by the company. "I am payed the worst at Eskom. White and black males get paid better than me. I am the lowest paid on the list."

The female is a single mother struggling to live comfortably. "It is very difficult for me. I am a single mother. I am on my own and must pay for everything by myself."

53-year-old Mandla Mushiyane was also very vocal during the protest.

Mushiyane who has been working for Eskom for 24 years told Independent Media that workers struggle everyday. "We are paid peanuts."

All three workers who spoke to Independent Media share the same sentiments. They are struggling to live on the salary that they are earning.

Meanwhile Eskom's power stations reported that it has not been adversely affected by the current illegal strike.

Eskom said in a statement that over 45 000 workers out of 47 000 workers have reported to work since the start of the mass action on August 9.

"The majority of our employees are at work, ensuring that our operations continue as normal," said the statement.

Fears on the ground have however intensified according to NUM for workers after police "randomly fired rubber bullets and assaulted members" who were protesting outside Hendrina Power Station in Mpumalanga.

Wage negotiations between Eskom and the three unions, NUM, Numsa and solidarity are still under way at Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

[email protected]

Labour Bureau

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