Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 19 September 2011 – The National Union of Mineworkers has given South African national power utility Eskom Holdings ten days to respond to its demand for a wage increase, following a march to its Johannesburg offices on Saturday.
Eskom, which provides virtually all the power for Africa’s largest economy and the world’s top platinum producer, has said a stoppage would be illegal as it provides an essential service and any strike will almost certainly be challenged in court.
But a showdown is looming as the NUM demands a 13% wage increase against 7% offered by Eskom. The two sides are also at loggerheads over pension funds and housing allowances.
“This is the last chance we are giving them,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told Reuters.
He said the union’s latest set of demands was presented to Eskom management on Saturday and that the deadline was a week from Tuesday “’ September 27.
“But if their response before then shows no movement we will take them on before then and may declare a strike action before then,” Seshoka added.
Earlier this month, the mediator — the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) — issued a "certificate of non-resolution" to NUM and two other unions in the talks, a necessary step toward legal strike action.
The unions have been angered by what they say was an attempt by Eskom to unilaterally impose the 7% hike. The NUM has challenged Eskom’s moves to implement the increase in the country’s labour court.
Eskom says that if the increases are not implemented in the September pay roll, then workers will have to wait until November to get any raise because of an upgrade to the system which will take place in October.
Eskom has a workforce of about 40,000 and says about 27,000 of its employees are unionised. Of the three unions represented there, NUM is the biggest with about 16,000 members.
If a strike took place and it disrupted energy generation it could blunt South Africa’s fragile economic recovery and impact output from the key mining sector, which is very power intensive.