Eskom and three unions will this week enter into do or die wage negotiations that would give an indication of the country’s energy security which has threatened to inflict further damage on the country’s ailing economy, reports Business Report. The strike has seen massive coal shortages as protesting workers blocked deliveries at some of Eskom’s power stations. Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said the board had convened a special meeting to discuss trade unions’ new demands tabled by the National Union of Mineworkers, National Union of Metalworkers of SA and Solidarity last week. Phasiwe said the board’s stance on the matter would inform Eskom’s response to the demands. ‘The board will not only consider the wage demand, it will also deliberate on the suggestions made by the unions,’ Phasiwe said. ‘We appreciate that the parties to these negotiations are committed to engage. The more we engage, the closer we get to a solution.’ The report says the unions, who initially wanted a 9% to 15% wage increase, said they had presented the power utility with a detailed package ‘which included a plan on how the power utility can turn itself around financially, while at the same time meeting the wage demands of workers.’
Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza has admitted that it may have been ‘tactically wrong’ to start wage negotiations with unions representing employees at the power utility at zero percent. ‘When you deal with the issues of wages, I think we could have handled this issue better as Eskom. It was perhaps tactically wrong to go in the negotiation chamber and say we are going to have a zero per cent increase. I think that was a bit wrong,’ he is quoted in an Engineering Newsreport as saying. Mabuza said the decision of a zero per cent wage increase had come as Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe announced that the company needed to look at cost-cutting areas such as freezing posts, freezing salary increases and forfeiting bonuses. Wage negotiations would resume today (Wednesday), said Mabuza.
Wage talks between unions and Eskom continue, with the power utility arguing that pay demands are unaffordable. Speaking with Chris Barron in the So Many Questions column in the Sunday Times, Numsa general secretary Irwin Jim defended the union’s stance. He said that the workers should not be the ones to pay for Eskom’s problems adding that when there are challenges facing Eskom the workers are soft targets.