Eskom strike threats grow as Numsa demands urgent talks with CEO Brian Molefe
In an eleventh hour decision – the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has applied for a strike certificate in order to down tools at the country’s energy supplier, Eskom.
Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) are already on an unprotected strike at the power utility in Mpumalanga, and will today urgently convene a national shop stewards council to discuss whether the strike should be extended nationwide.
In a statement issued late Tuesday night, Numsa announced that wage negotiations have stalled and that an application for a certificate of non-resolution had been sent to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration.
The metalworkers union, which is also the biggest in South Africa with about 370 000 members, has requested a meeting with Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe and his senior management team in a bid to avert the strike.
“If no agreement can be reached Numsa members are ready, as a last resort, to join all Eskom workers in all unions in strike action in support of our just demands. Where the NUM is already on strike, Numsa members will join them,” said Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim.
The NUM represents the majority of Eskom’s over 40 000-strong workforce with about 15 000 members and is followed by Numsa, with 10 000 members. However, all these workers could face dismissal if the unions decide to go ahead with the strike.
On Monday, Eskom management warned its employees who did not pitch up for work at the Arnot power station in Mpumalanga that they would face disciplinary action.
This is because the power utility is designated as an essential service. Unions have not been allowed to call a strike at Eskom since 2004, when they collectively withdrew from a minimum service agreement.
Asked about the latest development, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said: “There have been no disruptions at our power stations across the country today. We aren’t expecting anyone to go on strike because we have not been served with notice thereof. So technically, no union is on strike. If there is a strike, or disruption, the police will have to deal with it. ”
The NUM’s energy sector co-ordinator Paris Mashego told the Mail & Guardian that the union would contest the essential service designation. “Our experience is that Eskom strikes don’t last for more than two days. We wanted something similar, for the right to strike for one or two days.”