Pravin Gordhan. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Pravin Gordhan. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Eskom is likely to move on its 0% wage offer to its employees, with indications on Wednesday suggesting the power utility was amenable to change.

The Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan told labour federation Cosatu that he would ensure that Eskom negotiators do not go back to the table with the 0% offer.

The power utility is in a dispute with labour unions representing thousands of its workers after it said it would not increase wages this year in light of its financial difficulties.

Labour unions have demanded increases of between 9% and 15%.

In a statement issued on Wednesday following a meeting with Gordhan, Cosatu leaders said they read the minister the riot act as power utility workers were being forced to pay for the "sins of others". The reference is to years of corrupt activities at the state-owned enterprise (SOE) which contributed to its financial demise.

"The minister has promised to ensure that the Eskom negotiators treat these negotiations seriously and that they do not go back to the negotiating table with the same 0% offer that has enraged and provoked the workers.

"We hope that the Eskom leadership understand that there is a lot riding [on] these negotiations and that any intransigence and false negotiating will have dire consequences," said Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla.

Eskom CE Phakamani Hadebe also suggested that the power utility could lift its offer, despite describing the 0% position as "difficult and courageous".

He said the company was willing to consider the proposal that will be put forth by an independent facilitator who will be appointed by the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration and Mediation (CCMA).

Organised labour at the utility, Solidarity, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) declared a dispute of interest at the CCMA after talks collapsed last week.

"Exco will have to come in and look at the proposed option and we’ll make a judgment, we are not saying that is not an option," Hadebe said.

Cosatu said it supported Gordhan’s plans to turn around and clean up SA’s SOEs. It also wanted law enforcement agencies to expedite "bringing to book all the culprits that are responsible for looting and mismanaging Eskom".

Workers affiliated to the NUM and Numsa are expected to take part in lunchtime pickets at Eskom power stations and offices across the country on Thursday as part of mass action plans against the wage offer.

The utility said nine power stations in Mpumalanga faced disruptions on Wednesday due to illegal strike action and so it could not guarantee power supply to the area.