Eskom workers plan to strike over wages

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

Eskom has called an emergency meeting with unions in a desperate attempt to stave off a workers' strike that could throw the country into total darkness on Friday.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), National Union of Metal Workers (Numsa), and Solidarity have threatened to embark on a strike unless Eskom meets their demands.

The unions are demanding a 12percent pay hike, down from the original 15percent.

Eskom earlier offered 6percent and refused to move any higher.

But yesterday the power utility called the unions back to the negotiating table. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Leshoka said the union will go back to the negotiating table.

"This meeting has been called to try and stop us from embarking on a strike. It is not about Eskom meeting our demands. Eskom fears that if workers go on strike, South Africa will be plunged into darkness. And I foresee that happening," Leshoka said.

"Unions are talking to the Metro police to escort us when we march to the Department of Minerals and Energy in Pretoria.

"I believe the mass action will continue as planned on Friday. We have mobilised our members and we are ready to down tools," he said.

Eskom spokesman Fani Zulu confirmed that a meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

Zulu said negotiations were continuing.

"We have not received confirmation of a strike from the unions. We only have the word of the media," he said.

Solidarity general secretary Dirk Hermann said his union would also attend Thursday's talks.

"We will definitely take part. There has been a lot of speculation in the media about a strike, but the fact is we are committed to a negotiated settlement," he said.

Whether Solidarity will participate in the action on Friday will depend on the outcome of the meeting, he said.