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Unions call off Eskom strike

Jul 04 2010 15:39

Johannesburg - Unions said on Sunday they had called off a planned strike at the power utility Eskom after receiving a higher wage offer, ending concern about power supplies during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Widespread power cuts could also have dented local manufacturing and mining companies' output.

Eskom had said it would be illegal to strike at the utility because it is an essential service and warned it would punish strikers who had planned to go on strike this week.

"We think that it is a very serious offer and ask our members to seriously review it. We are not in a position to support an illegal strike by workers," general secretary for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) Irvin Jim told a media briefing.

The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and Numsa said they felt 9% was the best offer they could get from Eskom and conceded that a strike would have been illegal under South African law.

Last year the unions called off a strike planned at Eskom at the last minute after accepting a pay deal.

Analysts had predicted Eskom would strike a compromise deal with the unions.

The decision was taken jointly by officials of Numsa and Num, the biggest union at Eskom whose members number about half of the 32 000 staff.

Numsa has about 7 500 members at the utility, similar to a third union, Solidarity, which had asked Eskom to revise its offer by Monday before deciding whether to join the strike.

Eskom's new offer came in last ditch-talks at the weekend between the power firm and the unions.

The unions said Eskom raised its offer to 9% from 8.5%, nearly double South Africa's inflation rate of 4.6%, and said it would pay a R1 500 per month housing allowance, up from its previous offer of R1 000.

The unions had wanted a 9% wage raise and a housing allowance of R2 500.

Had the strike gone ahead, there was a likelihood of blackouts, which would have embarrassed the country and angered fans during the World Cup, which ends on July 11. Stadiums are equipped with their own power generators but millions of fans watching from home on TV could have been affected.

- Reuters

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