File image: IOL.
JOHANNESBURG - Eskom said yesterday that the new round of negotiations – set to begin today – could bring to an end the stalemate with its employees over wage increases.

This comes after Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday urged Eskom to abandon its stance not to offer a salary increase. Eskom withdrew its zero percent “offer” following its meeting with Gordhan and trade unions National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Solidarity, according to Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe. 

Phasiwe said the power utility would offer “anything above zero percent” in the new round negotiations. “We have a mandate from our shareholder to increase our offer. 

“We have seen the softening of attitudes from the unions as well. If we continue along that trajectory, we will be able to make a lot of progress in the negotiations. Hopefully we will find each other before the end of this week,” he said. 

Prior to the meeting with Gordhan, the three unions had declared a dispute with Eskom and the matter was headed for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. At the weekend, Numsa said the unions, Eskom and Gordhan had agreed to discuss, among others, Eskom’s coal costs, the impact of the independent power producers, the bloated top executive structure of Eskom management “and the building of trustworthy relationships between the parties as part of the process post negotiations”. 

Phasiwe said the electricity system was “relatively stable” yesterday after the return of more workers. 

“We are now in a full recovery mode. “The risk of power constraints will always be there, as long as we are in a recovery mode,” said Phasiwe. NUM and Numsa members last week embarked on industrial action, prompting Eskom to resort to load shedding amid allegations of intimidation and sabotage at the power utility’s several power stations.

Eskom said yesterday that the recovery period could be as long as 10 days. It said the recovery process entailed stabilising the power system and resuming power.