Cosatu mulls strike over Eskom price hike

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) could start a nationwide strike before October over large electricity price increases granted to utility Eskom, its secretary general said on Thursday.

Zwelinzima Vavi told would not say whether industrial action could take place before or during the Soccer World Cup, which South Africa is hosting in just less than three months.

Unions, consumers and businesses have condemned the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) decision to allow state-owned Eskom an average 25,5% annual price increase over the next three years.

Vavi told reporters the federation would consult its members in March and April to discuss protest action over the 24,8% electricity tariff increase this year and nominal increases of 25,8 % and 25,9% in the following two financial years.

“I am sure you are looking for October but we might even be on strike before that,” Vavi said, referring to a previous threat of action in October.

The increase for the 2010/11 fiscal year fell short of Eskom’s request for a 35% hike, but critics say the hikes will still have a big impact on investment and job creation in an economy recovering from its first recession in nearly two decades.

“If there is no resolution against this unjust Nersa decision, we are going to be striking,” Vavi said.

Vavi said a Cosatu strike would also protest against the government’s budget, which the trade union federation said did not do enough to alleviate the plight of South Africa’s poor. — Reuters

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