Johannesburg - The impasse between Eskom and the unions can be resolved if the parties agree to return to the table, Kannan Lakmeeharan, Eskom’s MD of systems and planning, told Reuters on Sunday.
There has been progress on both sides, he maintains.
According to Lakmeeharan, Eskom nevertheless has contingency plans to keep the lights on during the 2010 FIFA World Cup if the unions decide to strike.
On Friday, the three unions negotiating with the electricity supplier announced new wage demands that were far below what they had so far officially requested.
They were now demanding a 9% wage increase and a R2 500 housing allowance, while Eskom's latest offer had been 8% and a R500 allowance.
The unions had refused a new round of arbitration and insisted rather on political intervention by the ANC.
In particular, they refused to liaise further with Eskom head of human resources Bhabhalazi Bulunga, because of his “arrogance”.
The National Union of Mineworkers (Num), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity did, however, say that a strike was not imminent.
At a joint media conference they also decried the department of public enterprises' supposed bias, after minister Barbara Hogan suggested following the arbitration route.
According to her, striking is not an option because Eskom workers are regarded as essential service providers.
On Friday morning her deputy, Enoch Godongwana, met the unions at Cosatu House in Johannesburg, where he defended Hogan’s stance.
According to Num spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka a further political meeting has been promised, though there has been no liaison with the department since.
There are almost certainly unofficial talks taking place between union leaders and the department, union negotiator Paris Mashego said on Sunday.
On Tuesday, officials of the three unions within Eskom will be voting on the way forward and union leaders stressed that a strike could still result from this meeting.
But, said Mashego, they really did not want to strike.
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