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Eskom declares dispute, risk of load shedding remains

Aug 15 2018 20:41

Eskom has declared a dispute with trade unions the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity.

The dispute is over the precondition that unions NUM and Numsa raised as part of the wage negotiations, Eskom said on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, there is a risk of load shedding for the next month as the power grid recovers, the company added.

·         READ: Unions hold the cards as Eskom faces fresh strike threat

The two largest unions did not want members to be disciplined over unprotected strike action undertaken in the last month.

A mutual interest dispute has been referred by Eskom to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Eskom said.

Last week, during a meeting convened via the CCMA, the three recognised trade unions agreed in principle to Eskom's three-year wage proposal and conditions of employment, the power utility said.

The offer involved an increase of 7.5% in 2018/19, another 7% in 2019/20 and 7% in 2020/21, an annual cost of living (CPI) adjustment to their housing allowance as well as a once-off cash payment of R10 000.

However, the disciplinary action of members striking in July and August remained a key point of contention and parties deadlocked during talks on Wednesday. 

After previous intervention by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Eskom said it agreed not to discipline members who engaged in unprotected strikes in June.

Eskom is classified as an essential service.

Numsa previously said the power utility had initially agreed that no action would be taken again the workers, only to renege on this agreement as the talks continued. 

Earlier this week, Numsa warned that Eskom’s hard-line position could drive its members to embark on a strike.

"We do not rule out the possibility of protected industrial action, something which others may see as irresponsible...and might prove disastrous for the economy and the country," the union said.

"Eskom reserves its right to follow the disciplinary process in line with the company’s Disciplinary Code and Procedure," Eskom Group Executive for Human Resources Elsie Pule said on Wednesday.

"In an effort to bring the process to a conclusion, Eskom has referred a mutual interest dispute to the CCMA. We remain positive that the process will be expeditiously resolved," she said.

Eskom also said the power system would take around 30 days to recover from the effects of the strikes. "[T]here is a risk of load shedding during this period," the company said.  

Union representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday evening.

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solidarity  |  num  |  eskom  |  numsa  |  load shedding
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