Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has warned power utility Eskom that unilaterally enforcing wage increases for 2011 without any agreement at the bargaining table is "a declaration of war with workers".
"The 7% wage offer that Eskom wants to shove into worker' pockets was rejected by our members through a transparent and democratic process at a plant level as presented by our bargaining representatives," Numsa said late on Thursday.
Numsa declared a dispute on August 26 "and has been fighting at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) pertaining to the aborted wage negotiations with the state-owned power producer Eskom for wage demands for 2011 as per recognition agreements in line with the Labour Relations Act (LRA)".
The union said its members were prepared to strike for a 13% wage increment across the board, six months' paid maternity leave, the banning of labour brokers and a housing allowance increment of R2 500.
Numsa said it would join its counterparts in the National Union of Mineworkers and Solidarity on Saturday to hand over a memorandum of demands to Eskom and its board.
Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe told I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE on Friday morning that the next step in the dispute resolution process was arbitration, "which is compulsory in this case, because Eskom is an essential service institution".
She said that Eskom had referred the dispute for arbitration with the hope of a speedy resolution and that the parastatal had implemented its final offer of a 7% increase across the board for the September payroll.
"Eskom's employees have not had an increase this year and we were concerned that if we did not implement in September, we would have to wait until at least November because of a system upgrade in October."
She added that if Eskom was to be notified formally of an intention to strike, "we would apply for an interdict to stop this" as Eskom is an essential service and any strike would therefore be unprotected.