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Olivia Kumwenda, Jon Herskovitz25 Jun 2010 14:57
South African unions representing thousands of workers at power utility Eskom said on Friday they were not planning an imminent strike over wages, allaying fears a labour action could hit the Soccer World Cup.
State-owned Eskom and unions failed to reach an agreement on a wage dispute after a late-night bargaining session on Thursday. The two sides were not far apart on the size of a wage increase but hit snags on housing allowances and other benefits.
“At present a strike action is not on the cards,” the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), and Solidarity said in a joint statement.
The NUM, representing about half of the 32 000 workers at Eskom, said earlier that there had been no resolution to the wage dispute but it was open to more talks.
Analysts regard the threat of a strike as a union negotiating ploy to put pressure on Eskom to make greater wage and benefit concessions and do not expect the labour action to go ahead.
The unions said they would retain their right to strike if Eskom did not improve on its current offer.
They set a June 29 deadline for Eskom to come up with better deal and said union members could vote for a strike on that day.
The NUM on Thursday was granted a certificate of non-resolution of the wage dispute, which under the country’s laws allows a union to start a strike if its members agree.
Eskom has said a strike would be illegal because it would threaten an essential service and that receiving permission to strike does not mean workers will put down tools.
“A disruption of the electricity would not be in the national interests,” Enoch Godongwana, Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, told reporters.
“I am quite sure that a solution will be found,” he said.—Reuters
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