Eskom put out an ominous statement on Friday, 30 April, ahead of its meeting about wages with its workforce’s unions next week. On Tuesday, 4 May, the power utility and its recognised labour representatives – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and Solidarity – will head to the Central Bargaining Forum to hash things out.
Eskom said that the wages talks could cause rising tensions and disruption to South Africa’s electricity supply and called on parties involved to “put the country’s best interests first.” In 2018, the last time these wage negotiations took place, the power utility started by offering workers a zero per cent (0%) increase, which led to strikes. The parties eventually settled on a 7% increase.
Eskom and the labour representatives are heading to the Central Bargaining Forum on Tuesday to kick off wage negations, which are expected to last for about a month until 3 June. The power utility cited the unpredictability of wage negotiations as the reason why tensions between Eskom and the unions could rise.
The power utility “assured the public” that it will do its utmost to reach a financially sustainable agreement with the unions that is in the best interest of employees, the public and South Africa as a whole.
Eskom suggested that any wage disputes could potentially affect the country’s already unreliable electricity supply as it could have a negative impact on the power utility’s infrastructure and operations.
“If disruptions were to occur, these may have a negative impact on our infrastructure and operations, which may compromise our ability to supply electricity,” said Eskom.
“We would like to appeal to all the parties to the talks to conduct themselves in a manner that puts respect for the law, best interests of the country and its citizens first, and to do everything possible to avoid unnecessary disturbances,” said spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha.
“This is particularly crucial as Eskom is, by law, providing a critical essential service.
NUM and NUMSA are calling for a 15% wage increase, while Solidarity is asking for 9.5%.