Johannesburg – Members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) at Eskom plan to picket outside the power utility's head office at Megawatt Park in Sandton to demand a better living wage and living conditions.
Numsa is demanding a “substantial salary increase” and a hike in the housing allowance, among other things. It is also looking to establish a one-year agreement which will be adjusted for inflation each year, said Patrick Craven, acting spokesperson for Numsa.
“Workers have a right to picket and hand over a memorandum of their demands. We will respect it and respond to it accordingly,” said Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe. The power utility is in wage negotiations with unions and believes an agreement that covers their demands will be reached.
Phasiwe said Eskom’s position has moved from an initial increase offering to 5% to 7% for middle management and 9% for the lowest paid workers. However, Craven said Eskom has not moved at all. “We want to highlight that fact that Eskom is refusing to make any concessions at all.”
No striking allowed for Eskom workers
Responding to whether service delivery may be impacted, Phasiwe said: “We hope people won’t down tools; the law does not allow it.” He explained that like the police and army, workers at Eskom are essential service providers and are not allowed to go on strike, by law.
Eskom’s argument that workers provide an essential service and are not allowed to strike shows that the company is not prepared to negotiate seriously, said Craven. “Workers managed to avoid load shedding in the past months and at the very least deserve a living wage increase and not a wage cut, which Eskom is suggesting with increases below inflation.
“We will do our best to meet employees half way,” added Phasiwe. He also said workers should remember that Eskom has undertaken a R280bn capital expenditure project which includes the completion of Medupi and Kusile power stations.
The power utility has borrowed funds from international institutions and any profit generated, including the recently reported R4bn, will be reinvested as capital and used to pay back loans. “That has been the premise of discussions with unions,” he added.
“Whether Eskom, a public service provider, has adopted capitalist means to fund itself should not affect the wages of workers,” responded Craven.