Eskom strike ends as unions accept 7.5% pay increase
Eskom has finally signed a three-year wage agreement with trade unions following three months of gruelling talks that deadlocked numerous times and affected electricity supply.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the National Union of Mineworkers acceded to the settlement proposal the utility made a month ago of 7.5% increases for 2018‚ 7% for 2019 and 2020.
The agreement follows Eskom’s decision to declare a dispute of mutual interest at the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration after the unions refused to sign the deal‚ demanding that the company drops its disciplinary charges against employees.
The power utility said it would act against employees who took part in illegal strike action in June and July‚ plunging the country into darkness with the company forced to implement load shedding.
Workers went on a rampage after Eskom opened wage talks with a 0% wage hike offer that was widely criticised.
The company claimed its properties were vandalised in acts of sabotage meant to affect the power grid.
Although the agreement reached late on Wednesday night made no mention of the unions’ ultimatum not to sign until Eskom guaranteed not to dismiss at workers in spite of the outcomes of disciplinary hearings‚ the unions got Eskom to agree that there would be no changes in workers’ conditions of service until 2021.
It was unclear how this would apply in reality as Eskom has already admitted its staff complement was in need of a shake-up to ensure it was optimal and in line with industry norms globally.
Two months ago Eskom said it would have to dip into its operational budget to finance the wage increases.
Government also indicated it was not prepared to foot the bill through yet another bailout.
Eskom was in debt to the tune of R387-billion at the end of March‚ with nearly all of it government guaranteed.
The power utility also has to pay workers R10‚000 in once off bonuses within 48 hours after the signing of the deal.