Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Power utility Eskom and labour unions are on a collision course again over the utility’s decision not to pay workers bonuses as part of a wage agreement still under discussion.

On Monday, the company insisted it would not pay the bonuses after labour demanded 12% of workers’ annual income.

Eskom has been engaged in wage talks with Solidarity, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) for almost two months.

The unions said they were dismayed by Eskom’s refusal to accede to their demands.

NUM described the decision as a "declaration of war".

It reiterated that the issue of bonuses was a "deal-breaker" in wage negotiations.

In the past, NUM members have threatened to strike if the talks did not go their way.

"We view the decision by management not to give bonuses to the hard-working employees as a declaration of war. When we were offered a 0% increase, it was later said that the 0% decision was a tactical error. We believe that the decision not to give workers bonuses is also a tactical error," said NUM in a statement.

Numsa spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said it was management that had led Eskom towards destruction.

"The dismal financial performance of Eskom had nothing to do with ordinary workers. The problems were caused by corruption and mismanagement at senior executive management level. They are punishing workers for their failures," she said.

In its last meeting with the unions last week, Eskom made a final wage offer that gave the workers two options.

In the first option, the state-owned company gave its employees 7% wage increases for the next three years, with housing allowance hikes dependent on the inflation rate.

In a second option, the company offered workers 7.5% in 2018 and 7% in 2019 and 2020, with no housing allowance.