Union talks with Eskom go into ‘extra time’

Talks at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) between electricity parastatal Eskom and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) went into “extra time” on Wednesday.

In a bid to avert industrial action during the remainder of the Fifa World Cup, the NUM said it had given Eskom until Friday to revise its wage offer.

“They were supposed to bring a new offer today [Wednesday],” said NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka.

He confirmed that the NUM had rejected Eskom’s latest offer of an eight percent across-the-board increase and a R12 000 once-off ex-gratia payment to each worker.

Instead, the union had demanded an across the board increase of nine percent and a housing allowance of R4 000 a month.

“We initially asked for an 18% wage increase and a housing allowance of R5 000 per month,” Seshoka said.

“Now we’ve given them an entire week to sort themselves out.”

Seshoka said the NUM was “very disappointed” in the CCMA and questioned its independence.

“The CCMA has always had the credibility to broker deals, but so long as the World Cup is on the CCMA may drag its feet when it comes to issuing a certificate of non-resolution.”

He said that “normally” the CCMA would have issued a certificate of non-resolution “a long time ago.”

Eskom human resources head Bhabhalazi Bulanga said Eskom had asked the CCMA to give it time to refresh its mandate.

“We told the CCMA on Wednesday that we had not completed this and we will now meet with them on Thursday and then it is expected we will meet the unions on Friday.

“We weren’t aware that the NUM had given us until Friday to refresh the mandate. We heard about it through the media,” he said.

Bulanga confirmed that if Eskom was faced with “unprotected industrial action” it would cope.

However, he said that the law deemed Eskom an essential service.

“If there was a minimum service agreement in place we would discuss who can and cannot work, but there is no such agreement and the law therefore applies.”

Meanwhile, Seshoka said he did not believe Eskom was in dire financial straits.

“They’ve just reported a R3,6-billion profit,” he said.

He did not think the new appointments at Eskom — of a chief executive officer and chairman — made any difference to negotiations.

“Their appointments are part of the management that failed Eskom. You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.”

However, he said the NUM did not want to be accused of holding a gun to Eskom’s head.

“We are open to negotiations and we believe that we can achieve a settlement through negotiations.”–Sapa

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