An Eskom worker checks power lines. Picture: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART
An Eskom worker checks power lines. Picture: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART

Trade unions say Eskom is being shortsighted by not conceding to their demands, because rejecting union proposals could cost the company more.

The unions claimed the damage caused during labour unrest at the power utility two weeks ago ran into billions of rand, compared with the R1.2bn it would cost to increase the salaries of workers.

Eskom declined to comment, saying wage negotiations are confidential.

The company topped its 4.7% wage offer with a further 0.3% on Wednesday during the fourth round of the critical wage negotiations with unions. The 5% offer was rejected by the unions, which have demanded 9% increases in 2018 as part of a three-year wage proposal.

The National Union of Mineworkers, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and Solidarity said in a joint statement released on Wednesday that they could not take the offer back to their members.

The three unions are negotiating on behalf of 37,000 Eskom employees whose wage hikes are determined through the collective bargaining process.

"Once again we have called on Eskom to take this process seriously. When you consider the individual demands of the unions since these talks started, we have made major concessions and compromised on our positions," the unions said.

Eskom said it would have to cut operating costs to accommodate salary adjustments. It initially proposed no wage hikes, which enraged workers whose protests affected power supply.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said last week SA could not afford to bail out the utility.

Eskom management has requested more time to consult with its board. The wage negotiations are expected to resume on Thursday.