The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) red flagged South Africa’s power utility Eskom, suggesting they may be treading dangerous waters by not consenting their workers to strike. This may encourage a crowd of angry strikers.

This action taken by Eskom, who provides 95% of power to Africa’s largest market, may leave industries such as smelters, mines and factories no choice but to close down unwillingly.

South Africa’s economy has been badly hit in recent months due to work stoppages. The latest has been a week-long strike by more than 200 000 miners belonging to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) ­– and a strike lasting five months (which ended two weeks ago) is seeing the devastating effects in the platinum sector.

NUM, which represents around 16 000 workers at Eskom, has already rejected a 5.6 per cent wage offer and is demanding a 12 per cent increase. “If doctors can strike in South Africa, why can’t Eskom workers strike?” NUM general secretary Frans Baleni asked at a recent news conference. “Our members are angry. Eskom is sitting on a time bomb.”

Baleni said the workers, who are not allowed to strike as they are deemed to provide an essential service, were angry, adding the union would not stop a wildcat strike.

“Anything is possible at Eskom. If workers decide to react in various forms including an unprotected strike, we cannot be blamed,” he said.

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