Cape Town - While Eskom workers have agreed to a one-year 7% wage deal which has ended their strike, the power utility is expecting to extend Stage 5 load shedding into Wednesday and Thursday.
According to Eskom, the strike resulted in maintenance work being postponed leading to a backlog that will take time to clear.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity have been in wage talks with Eskom at the Central Bargaining Forum (CBF) for nearly two weeks.
This triggered protests at various Eskom power plants leading to Stage 6 power cuts.
The unions met Eskom management yesterday after collecting mandates from all workers in all regions to accept the wage proposal.
The signed agreement was a 7% salary increase across the board for all the employees covered in the CBF, applied for the year starting July 2022 to June 30 next year.
For this period the housing allowance will increase by R400 per month.
“As Numsa we are pleased to have finally resolved this round of wage talks, particularly given the difficult circumstances that we faced. The conditions of service which were unilaterally withdrawn, and which caused so much pain to our members, have been restored. We have also secured an improvement from last year, after Eskom imposed 1.5%,” said Numsa national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.
NUM national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said regarding the disciplinary procedure, grievance procedure and recognition agreement, a task team will be established consisting of at least three persons from each party.
“The task team will report back to the CBF within three months. The NUM wishes to express its sincere gratitude to its members at Eskom for the manner in which they behaved during the negotiation period up until they gave us a mandate to sign the agreement,” he said.
According to Eskom’s spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha, while some generation units have been returned to service over the past few days, this is not sufficient to suspend load shedding as other generation units have had to be taken off-line for repairs. “Load shedding will therefore continue being implemented at varying stages during the next few weeks as the generation capacity shortages persist. The overall effect of this agreement on the wage bill will be more than R1 billion over the period of the agreement.
“This of course will be a struggle for Eskom to afford. It is important to note that while the workforce is returning to work, the system will still take some time to recover. As a result of the strike, maintenance work has had to be postponed, and this backlog will take time to clear,” he said.
Stellenbosch University Energy expert Professor Sampson Mamphweli said Eskom employees have not had a good salary increase for the past few years, however the utility has not been performing well due to the challenges with the ageing coal-fired power plants that were not properly maintained in the past, sabotage by some employees and other factors.
“Eskom was under severe pressure politically and otherwise to accede to the workers demand. Having said the latter, I am of the view that any salary increase above inflation is not justifiable especially for a utility that has huge financial challenges and it is currently not performing well. I hope that Eskom employees will start performing well and expose those sabotaging the system so that we can have a stable power supply.”