NUM threatens blackouts after rejecting pay offer

MEMBERS of the National Union of Mineworkers plan to strike at Eskom next week after rejecting a wage offer, raising the threat of electricity disruptions.

MEMBERS of the National Union of Mineworkers plan to strike at Eskom next week after rejecting a wage offer, raising the threat of electricity disruptions.

The NUM, which has 16000 members at Eskom, said a strike could start on Monday or Tuesday.

"We don't see how a strike can be avoided ... Our plan is to start mass action as early as next week," NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said.

Under South African labour law, Eskom is classified as an essential service and that prohibits a large majority of its staff from striking, but the union has said it could go against the law because of the urgency of its members' demands.

Eskom said the chances of a settlement in the talks had improved, however. Unions are demanding a 14percent increase and the utility is offering 8percent.

"Both parties have moved and we believe our chances to reach a settlement are much closer," Eskom spokesperson Fani Zulu said.

Eskom generates 95percent of South Africa's electricity and 45percent of Africa's electricity.

Electricity blackouts early last year, the result of years of under-investment, temporarily crippled mine output.

Analysts said any strike would only affect production if it was sustained and if power supply was interrupted and normal maintenance of the power grid was not carried out.

News of the possible strike helped push platinum and palladium prices to multi-month highs.

A spokesperson for AngloGold Ashanti, the world's third-biggest gold producer, said the company would meet Eskom over the strike. - Reuters

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