ESKOM, UNIONS REOPEN CRUCIAL WAGE TALKS
National power utility bows to worker pressure, resumption of negotiations puts on hold threat of a full blown strike
ESKOM has bowed to the pressure of workers by reopening the wage negotiations yesterday.
In a week that has seen the power utility taking a very tough stance on its commitment to a no wage increase this will come as something of a relief, not only to the workers but to consumers of electricity across the country.
Group CEO Phakamani Hadebe told thousands of workers belonging to NUM and Numsa after their mass march to the Eskom head offices about the new development.
Accepting a memorandum of demands from the workers, Hadebe said they were committed to reopening the negotiations. “We do note the demands on your memorandum that you are giving us,” he said.
The power utility had offered a 0% wage hike, saying they didn’t have money.
NUM general secretary David Sipunzi said the workers were demanding a 15% wage hike across the board.
He said they were giving Eskom seven days to respond to their demands and if that failed they would be going back to Megawatt Park.
“We demand a one-year wage agreement, we also demand a system designed to migrate 66% of the staff who are women and young workers into a better salary band as they were currently trapped at the minimum end of the salary scale.
“We demand the abolition of discrimination in the distribution of incentive bonuses.
“All workers are to receive 25% on target bonuses regardless of grading.
“We demand the banning of labour brokers now,” he said.
Sipunzi said the cash-crippled institution should not tell the workers they did not have money but they should call those who have bankrupted Eskom to account.
A worker from one power station in Mpumalanga told Afro Voice they needed the increase because the cost of everything was very high.
“We are also affected by the VAT and petrol increase, a 0% wage increase is an insult to the workers.
“We want what belongs to us, it is time that Eskom takes us seriously,” a protester said.
Meanwhile, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, said the unity of the workers was paramount.
“This CEO is shaken, he has made a 180 degree Uturn after telling the negotiators to offer no increase to the workers. We are pushing him into a corner and we are not going to stop and he (Hadebe) knows very well what that means,” he said.
Vavi called on the workers to close ranks and stand strong in the face of intimidation from management.
He called on all the labour unions to stand behind the workers at Eskom amid the negotiations.
Vavi said Saftu was behind the workers all the way and the government needed to intervene urgently to avoid blackouts.
Numsa president Andrew Chirwa said the new dawn that was declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa was a new dawn of job losses.
He said the power utility needed to withdraw the signing of Independent Power Producers.
“If you have been sleeping it’s time to wake up. There’s no new dawn – your jobs are up for sale.
“We were happy when they changed the board, but that happiness was shortlived because in no time we realised that we are in much more trouble than ever before,” he said.
Chirwa said no worker wouldbe allowed to work if the power utility was not going to give them what they want.
“We are going to shutdown all the power stations. We mean business here,” he said.
Helen Diatile, chief negotiator for NUM, said the power utility had not given them a date as to when the negotiations were going to resume.
Eskom employees picketing outside the power untility’s head office in Megawatt Park, Sunninghill yesterday. Pressure from the unions have forced management to reopen talks over wages, target bonuses and the banning of labour brokers.