Eskom sticks to its guns over wage demands

Eskom not budging over wage demands.
Eskom not budging over wage demands.
Image: FILE PHOTO

In what could be its last round of negotiations until a deal is struck‚ Eskom has stuck to its guns in reviewing the wage increase offer it tabled a week ago.

Eskom offered workers two options‚ which were constructed from its last offer‚ as its final proposals.

Labour unions said they would take the offer back to members for consideration after yet another round of tense wage negotiations with the power utility on Tuesday.

However‚ Solidarity confirmed to this publication that it was “happy” with the offer and that it was “within their mandate” from members. The union’s Deon Reyneke said their 7‚500 members would now choose one of the options Eskom has tabled.

In Option A‚ the entity’s management proposed 7% wage increases for three years‚ with housing allowance hikes dependent the inflation rate.

Later on‚ the state owned company pulled back the housing allowance offer‚ saying Option B was 7.5% in 2018 and 7% in 2019 and 2020‚ as the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) confirmed in a statement late on Tuesday.

Although the power utility has made massive strides towards organised labour’s demands since it first tabled 0% wage increases a month ago‚ Num and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) were not won over on Tuesday.

Insiders have told this publication that the deal breaker was the 12% once off bonus demand.

A Central Consultative Forum will be convened on Friday to discuss the bonus issue‚ while talks would reconvene next Friday.

On Tuesday it seemed unions had retreated from their 8% wage increase demand and R500 housing allowance.

Unlike Solidarity‚ which has been leaning towards a settlement for the past two weeks‚ Num and Numsa seemed ready to stick it out until Eskom caved on the bonus demand.

The unions were also in a bitter rivalry for members at the power utility‚ with Num‚ which has been shedding members in the past 8 years‚ looking to cement its presence in all the sectors it still dominates.

Num is the biggest union at Eskom‚ followed by Numsa‚ and it is unlikely either one would agree to a settlement first.

The unions were also under pressure to conclude the talks‚ with their public pleas to meet with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene failing to gaining traction.

Organised labour hoped the government leaders would intervene in the difficult talks which have now dragged on for over a month.

Although Nene suggested last week that the unionists would need to show the country how the money for the increases could be sourced from the fiscus‚ it remained unclear how Eskom would finance the wage increases.

Eskom is due to present its financial results on Monday‚ with gloomy predictions by energy experts already abound.

Eskom has been in financial disarray for years‚ following mass-scale corrupt activities at the power utility with funds being pillaged as state capture ravaged balance sheets of many state-owned enterprises.

The company has debt amounting to R367-billion and has been flagged as a risk to the country’s economy.

During the early stages of negotiations‚ Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said the company would need to dip into its operations budget to finance the wage increases.

Eskom chief executive Phakamani Hadebe said they also planned to reduce capital expenditure to meet a savings target of R50-billion in the next five years.

However‚ the company has since stopped commenting on the wage negotiations‚ with the exception of a brief statement on Tuesday saying the talks were nearing an end.

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