Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Wage negotiation between Eskom and labour representatives are set to resume on Tuesday as the power utility continues its fight to stave off another bout of load shedding.

In June the utility introduced load shedding after some workers picketed at some power stations. The unions have since denied their members were responsible for the blackouts.

Electricity consumers should brace themselves for more rolling blackouts if Eskom and the unions fail to reach an agreement on Tuesday.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said its members were still hellbent on embarking on unlawful industrial action should the power utility not meet its demands.

NUM, Solidarity and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) on Friday consolidated their wage demands once more, calling on Eskom to hike workers’ wages by a reduced 8% in 2018 and 8.5% for the two successive years.

Eskom has been in wage talks with unions for more than a month, with the company contesting amounts being tabled as unaffordable under its current financial difficulties.

Increase rejected 

The company offered unions a 7% wage increase for this year, and 6% for 2019-20, which was rejected on Friday.

The unions said that recent revelations carried by Business Day about Eskom executives receiving perks worth millions of rand demonstrated that the power utility could afford their demands.

Eskom pays at least R500,000 monthly towards refuelling and maintaining vehicles that are driven by 115 executives.

This, despite the utility saying earlier it may have to dip into its operational budgets in order to afford the pay hikes workers were demanding as it was simply too cash-strapped to accommodate the increases.

"Our members are thinking of a strike because of issues like that," said NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu.

"How can we convince members to accept 7% when at the same time monies are spent on petrol and maintenance costs for managers’ costs," he said.

Mammburu added that the mandate from a shop steward council held last week resolving to strike although they are considered an essential service was still valid.

"Tomorrow is D-day, where if Eskom does not come with anything, the mandate from the shop steward council last Friday was to say they will go on strike," he said.

Unions also want R750 for housing allowances from Eskom and once-off bonuses of 12% of workers’ annual income in 2018 and 25% in 2019-20. The demands have been reduced from the initially consolidated proposal of 9% hikes and R1,000 housing allowances made by unions when negotiations reconvened two weeks ago.

Eskom has moved from a 0% wage offer.

On Monday, the power utility told Business Day that while it would not comment on the negotiations and expectations of unions, it was still hopeful an amicable settlement would be reached.