Workers stand to lose benefits, even with 1.5% increase, writes Willem Phungula. File Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Workers stand to lose benefits, even with 1.5% increase, writes Willem Phungula. File Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Eskom workers to picket as wage talks collapse

By Willem Phungula Time of article published Jun 4, 2021

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DURBAN - ESKOM workers have vowed to embark on lunch-hour pickets until the power utility accedes to their wage demands.

This was in reaction to the collapse of wage negotiations after the state’s power utility declared a dispute late on Wednesday.

Eskom refused to move from its offer of a 1.5% increase, which was rejected by unions. In a statement released by National Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa), general secretary Irvin Jim on Wednesday accused Eskom of negotiating in bad faith and said workers would start lunch-hour protests.

He said even the increase of 1.5% had conditions which were forcing workers to lose some benefits which the union could not allow. Jim said Eskom’s insistence on 1.5% was a violation of Nersa’s directive which said workers must be given a 5.4% increase.

Further to that he said Nersa ordered Eskom not to give increases (to) coal suppliers anymore but the power utility ignored that and gave coal suppliers a 17% increase year-on-year.

“Why should workers accept 1.5% on the table when Nersa clearly stipulated that it had allocated a 5.4% increase for workers? It is clear that Eskom took the money which had been set aside for workers’ increases and used it to benefit coal supply companies instead.

“Even if workers received a 0% increase it would not stop Eskom’s collapse because it was not workers’ salaries which were collapsing it but the bloated, corrupt cost (of) coal. We reject the 1.5% offer,” said Jim.

In support of his claims he said Eskom recently gave Seriti/South32 a whopping 49% increase and has agreed to paying R3 billion more for 30 million tons of coal for four years.

In 2020 he said Eskom spent R71bn on coal as part of its generation costs and spent R28bn on REPPs.

He said while the cost of coal had ballooned exponentially for the past three years, workers’ salaries had remained unchanged.

“Now that Eskom has lodged a dispute, we will wait for the conciliation process of the CCMA to unfold and we hope that this time Eskom will engage meaningfully. We remain committed to finding each other during this engagement but in the meantime we will mobilise all our members and all workers at Eskom to picket and stage demonstrations during their lunchtime to highlight their demands.”

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the workers’ demands were unaffordable, which was why Eskom declared a dispute.

He said the utility relied on taxpayer cash bailouts and this clearly demonstrated that these demands were unaffordable.

He said 1.5% was the final offer against the proposed increase of 9.5%.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said workers had proposed to reduce their wage increase demand but Eskom was not prepared to move up from its initial 1.5% which was offered at the very beginning of talks.

It is understood that workers had revised their demand to 9.5% from the initial 12% and 10%.

The negotiations started on April 30 but both parties had failed to reach an agreement.

Daily News

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