Hundreds of disgruntled Eskom workers gathered outside the utility's New Germany site as protests over the 0% increase offer continued across the country. Picture: Latoya Newman
JOHANNESBURG - Power utility Eskom said yesterday that it relished the opportunity to present its case for not offering a salary increase to its employees before an independent arbitrator at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) despite a day of protests and intimidation at its power stations.

Chief executive Phakamani Hadebe said Eskom remained open to averting an industrial action but believed that its stance was justified.

Hadebe said the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity had referred the matter to the CCMA.

“We firmly believe that the course we have taken is the right one. We do not have a lot of options due to our situation,” said Hadebe.

Eskom is at loggerheads with the NUM, Solidarity and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) over its decision not to offer a zero-percent salary increase.

Consider

Asked if Eskom would consider increasing its offer, Hadebe said the power utility would make that call if the independent arbitrator suggested so.

“We are not saying that is not an option,” he said.

Eskom group executive for generation and risk and sustainability, Thava Govender, said that Camden, Kendal, Arnot, Komati, Hendrina, Matla, Duvha, Kriel and Grootvlei were affected by protests.

“We saw lot of barricades preventing people from coming in. People were intimidated and forced to come out of their vehicles. We were short on operation and maintenance staff at those stations.

“We put our contingency plan in place. Our contingency plan relies on the trade union that has not gone on strike, Solidarity, and managerial professionals,” said Govender.

Hadebe said the power utility would consider a court interdict if necessary “to protect the interests of our employees and our assets and to further ensure the security of supply”.

Committed

He said Eskom was committed to keep the lights on and reiterated that the utility had activated its contingencies.

He said all the power stations were operating.

“Some of them are not operating at full strength but they are operating,” he said.

Hadebe said the decision not to offer a salary increase was part of wider efforts to ensure Eskom’s financial viability.

“The issue of a zero increase should not be seen in isolation from most of the decisions that have been taken,” he said.

He alluded to the reduction in capital expenditure from about R55 billion a year to R45bn a year.

That, he said, would save Eskom about R50bn over five years. Other initiatives entailed reducing operating expenditure and keeping maintenance costs unchanged. He said Eskom was also taking steps to increase electricity sales volumes.

Hadebe said Eskom did not expect the various cost-cutting measures to have an immediate impact. “During this organisational turnaround phase, we need to take tough and courageous decisions. We need to make more radical steps as we move ahead,” he said.

-BUSINESS REPORT