ESKOM has dared three unions in its plants to go ahead with their planned strike but warned that the action would be illegal and worthless.
The national electricity generator made it clear at a press briefing in Johannesburg yesterday that it would not succumb any more to the unions' demands, a pronouncement that could mark a further deterioration in relations between it and the trade unions.
The parties have been at each others' throats since the unions demanded a 15percent wage increase and housing allowance of R5000 a month.
In the new developments yesterday, Eskom warned the unions - the National Union of Mineworkers, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and Solidarity - that security agencies would be on standby to deal with any possible threat of violence should the strike go ahead as planned next week.
Eskom chief executive Brian Dames said, with a general worker paid R100000 a year, the parastatal was paying competitive salaries.
He said: "What we have put on the table is fair, more than reasonable. This country has laws and we are a responsible leadership. We will ensure that the laws are respected. We will make sure our personnel and property are protected.
"We appeal to the unions to adopt this course rather than take action which could damage Eskom, threaten security of supply and the economy and cause reputational damage to South Africa during the successful Soccer World Cup," Dames said.
Eskom's head of human resources Bhabhalazi Bulunga said the door was still open for negotiations. He said there were no plans to meet officially from yesterday to Monday, but they were talking to individual unions.
Eskom this week presented the unions with a revised offer of 8,5percent wage increase and a housing allowance of R1000 a month.
Bulunga said the strike would be illegal because the parties did not have a minimum service agreement, making Eskom an essential service, barring workers from embarking on a strike.
Meanwhile, Numsa said it has assembled a team of legal experts to "unbundle" Eskom's essential services clause.
Numsa and Num will embark on a strike next week. Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said Eskom was frustrating the workers' right to strike.
"Not everything at Eskom is essential service. Our legal team is working around the clock to go through that part about essential services and determine which departments are and which are not," Jim said.
He said the union was doing everything in its power to ensure that the strike was legal.