The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Friday dismissed Eskom’s warnings that the upcoming wage negotiations with unions could result in a rise in tensions and possibly affect its ability to supply electricity to the nation.
NUM media officer Luphert Chilwane accused Eskom of using fear tactics in an attempt to gain public sympathy ahead of the talks next week at the Central Bargaining Forum.
He said the union would not back down on its demand for a 15% increase for all non-managerial employees, despite Eskom saying it is in financial distress.
“Eskom is using that as a tactic because they know very well that we are coming for them. We are not even bothered by such kinds of threats and we are very much determined to beat them where it hurts most,” Chilwane told The Citizen.
In a statement on Friday, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the parastatal would do everything possible to reach a consensus that is financially sustainable and in the best interests of its workers, public and the country.
Mantshantsha warned should disruptions occur “these may have a negative impact on our infrastructure and operations, which may compromise our ability to supply electricity”.
He said Eskom would approach the negotiations in good faith with the best interests of the company, its employees and the country guiding the talks.
“We would like to appeal to all parties to the talks to conduct themselves in a manner that puts respect for the law, best interests of the country and its citizens first, and to do everything possible to avoid any unnecessary disturbances. This is particularly crucial as Eskom is, by law, providing a critical service,” Mantshantsha said.
The wage talks are begin on Tuesday 4 May and end on 3 June 2021.
Chilwane dismissed Eskom’s statement, saying South Africans were aware of the utility’s power supply problems and NUM would not back down on its demands.
“We are determined that the mandate that we have from Eskom workers will be represented to the company next week. We are not yet talking about the managerial posts. The 15% is for workers who are low paid. The problems of Eskom cannot be our problems.
“We are a union representing workers and their interests. So, we cannot be deterred with them trying to derail the negotiations,” he said.
Chilwane slammed Eskom management, saying it cannot claim poverty when the company has been mired in allegations of corruption and procurement irregularities.
“We are aware of many companies coming up with such kinds of excuses and we resolved during our national collective bargaining conference that is not going to be an issue we will entertain.
“If you look at what is happening in Eskom, corruption and the agreements with independent power producers (IPPs), it doesn’t give us any reason why we should not demand what we are proposing to Eskom. There is money and the money is being used to fund corrupt activities in Eskom. We are very much determined that we are going to meet them head on.”
Numsa demands equal pay
Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is demanding a one-year wage agreement, a 15% wage increase and an end to salary disparities.
“The principle of equal pay for work of equal value must be applied. We need to make sure that the pay gap between these groups must not exceed 50%. It must be above the mid-point,” union spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said.
Numsa argued that Eskom’s biggest cost drivers are coal, the agreement with renewable energy independent power producers (REIPP) and the cost of diesel.
“It is our firm view these bloated costs are driven by the corrupt relationship Eskom continues to have with white monopoly capital. In other words, the phenomenon known as state capture is alive and well, even under this current administration.”