/ 19 September 2011

World union body condemns court’s Eskom ruling

A Labour Court ruling in favour of Eskom in a wage dispute shows it is aligned with the interests of big capital, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) said on Monday.

“The WFTU supports the National Union of Mineworkers’ charter of demands, among them the salary increase of 13%, and we denounce the court decision,” the Athens-based federation said in a statement.

“We extend militant support and solidarity greeting with your struggle against Eskom, in courts, in the streets of struggle and wherever is necessary.”

The federation, with a membership of 82-million, said it supported the fight for the rights of workers both in the sector and the working class in South Africa.

One of these was the right to “stable salaries and increases … that correspond with contemporary workers’ needs.”

No rights available
On Monday, the Labour Court in Johannesburg turned down an urgent application by NUM to stop Eskom from introducing a unilateral 7% pay rise.

Judge Graham Moshoana ruled the application did not satisfy the requirements of an interdict.

“The implementation of the last offer is not tantamount to exercise of economic power … the parties have deadlocked and there is no constitutional right available to the applicants,” he said.

The application was dismissed without costs.

NUM would argue for leave to appeal on Wednesday.

“We are very disappointed … this has never happened in Eskom. It might set a precedent,” NUM energy sector coordinator Job Matsepe said.

“It is just unfortunate that all these wars we are waging will result in a paralysis [in] industrial relations and otherwise at the parastatal.”

Serving in the interest of the ruling class
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), a joint applicant, said the judgment undermined the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.

“This judgment has proven our ideological correctness and views that in a capitalist or bourgeois society, like South Africa, the judiciary will act and serve the best interest of the ruling class,” spokesperson Castro Ngobese said.

Eskom legal spokesperson Nerina Otto said the judgment was a sound one. It would contest an appeal.

The utility’s lawyer Addil Patel said it was due to put its pay offer into effect after a deadlock and conciliation.

Wage talks with NUM, Numsa and Solidarity recently deadlocked, with a demand of 13% placed on the table.

Eskom’s last offer was 7% at the end of August. The dispute was conciliated on September 7.

The increase, backdated from July, would take effect in September. It would affect about 22 000 workers in the bargaining unit. — Sapa