Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Eskom offers 1.5%, unions wants 15% – Wage talks ‘progressing very well’

The NUM and Numsa want a 15% wage hike for all non-managerial employees, while Solidarity has called for a 9.5% increase.

Eskom says the second round of wage talks with unions is progressing very well after it tabled a 1.5% wage hike offer at the Central Bargaining Forum on Monday.

“The talks are progressing well so far,” Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha briefly told The Citizen on Tuesday without divulging more information.

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The power utility’s offer to unions is far below what the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and trade union Solidarity are demanding.

The NUM and Numsa want a 15% wage hike for all non-managerial employees, while Solidarity called for a 9.5% increase.

The wage talks began earlier this month and are expected to conclude on 3 June 2021.

Eskom’s offer to unions is on condition that union representatives accept amendments to some of the conditions of service. These changes include transfer benefits, overtime pay rates and travel time.

Mantshantsha has always said the utility would approach the negotiations in good faith with the best interests of the company, its employees and the country guiding the talks.

Load shedding

Eskom has been battling to fix its ageing infrastructure amid financial challenges. It implemented load shedding this week.

On Tuesday morning, the power utility warned that its system remained vulnerable and stage 2 load shedding would resume from 5pm until 10pm.

Eskom said the outlook for the remainder of the week was expected to improve as its teams were working around the clock to return more generators to service after seven generating units returned online.

“We are currently experiencing high evening peaks which is typical of the winter demand period. Should there be any further deterioration in the generation capacity, load shedding may be necessary, most likely between 5pm and 10pm during the winter period.”

Unions have argued that the company is struggling due to mismanagement, corruption and procurement irregularities.

Numsa argued that Eskom’s biggest cost driver is coal, agreements with renewable energy independent power producers (REIPP) and the cost of diesel.

In a statement on Monday, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said they would meet with Eskom’s management this week for the second round of wage talks from Monday until Thursday.

‘Government capitulating to union threats’

Meanwhile, the DA on Tuesday said the government’s offer of a “cash gratuity” to all public servants, reportedly of R978 a month was a capitulation to the threats of public sector unions.

“South Africans will rightly ask – what is this cash bonus for? While millions of South Africans have lost their jobs and families are going through very difficult times financially, a monthly bonus for every public servant is simply not warranted at this time.

“This is especially as the actual delivery of essential public services is at a low point,” said the party’s spokesperson on public enterprises, Geordin Hill-Lewis, in a statement.

Hill-Lewis said the gratuity payment constituted a massive step back in reining in the public sector wage bill and enforcing fiscal discipline.

He said it would add at least R15.6 billion in new expenditure to the government’s desperately overstretched budget.

“There have been vague statements to the effect that this offer will be fiscally neutral. It is hard to see how that is true, or if it is, how it will be done without more deep cuts to other services. The minister of finance and the minister of public service, should brief the public in detail on how this cash bonus will be paid for.

“Assuming that the 1.5% wage increase was already incorporated into Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni’s 2020-21 budget as a pay progression that employees qualify for based on their performance, this gratuity benefit will lead to total spending on public servant compensation to increase by over 2%.”

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