Power blackouts could
happen as Eskom faces
possible strike
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 19 April 2011 – South African national power utility Eskom’s biggest trade union wants a 16% wage increase this year.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represents some 11 000 Eskom workers, and will present Eskom with its list of demands for this year’s negotiations today.

Fin24 reports that the union also demands that the utility in future agrees to sign a minimum service-level agreement. NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said this agreement would, for instance, make it possible in future for non-essential Eskom employees to strike.

“Employees are currently restricted because Eskom provides a strategic service,” he said.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said the union was also concerned about the enormous differences between the salaries of management and union members. He said the average total cost of hiring a member of Eskom’s management compared to that for an ordinary worker was 85:1. This was totally unacceptable.

Eskom’s other trade unions are Solidarity and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the minimum service-level agreement was now a priority and his union, which represented almost 6,000 Eskom workers, demanded a 16% wage increase.

He added that Eskom had until June 30 to agree to Numsa’s demands. The union didnot want to strike, but would if that was the last option.

The unions warned that a protracted strike would have catastrophic consequences for the country. If Eskom again refused to yield to union demands, South Africans would experience a very long winter, he warned.

Sake24 has received a copy of the NUM demands. These include:

  • An electricity allowance of R700 a month for all workers
  • Six months’ maternity leave for women and 14 days for men
  • Union involvement in all appointments, no matter how senior the position
  • A housing allowance of R3 000 a month
  • Eskom’s share-option scheme for executives must be suspended and reviewed so that ordinary workers can also benefit from it.

Eskom chief executive Brian Dames declined to comment on the impending wage negotiations. He said the utility could not comment before it had examined the unions’ demands, which had not yet been seen.

Strikes could further squeeze Eskom’s already extremely tight network.

Eskom has warned that load-shedding is a possibility if South Africans do not save electricity, and also said that optimal utilisation of Eskom’s system is essential this winter. This will be difficult to achieve in the case of a strike.