Eskom to reopen negotiations with trade unions, as it warns of constrained supply

Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe has committed to reopening wage talks with trade unions.

He was booed by workers outside the power utility’s head office Megawatt Park in Sunninghill on Thursday afternoon, where he received a memorandum during a lunchtime picket.

Disgruntled workers belonging to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) are demanding a 15% wage increase, while the cash-strapped power utility has said it cannot afford any increases. 

Hadebe spoke briefly amidst the heckles, but was cheered when he said said Eskom management had noted the unions’ concerns that were read out in the memorandum.

Earlier Eskom had said that its network was “constrained today due to the acts of sabotage and intimidation”.

READ MORE: Eskom power stations facing blockages as workers picket

There had been “several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure”.

“As a result, all road coal deliveries have been stopped for security reasons. The safety of all our employees is of paramount importance to us during this time,” it said in the earlier statement.

Before Hadebe addressed employees, Numsa president Andrew Chirwa said the power utility was seeking a court interdict to stop the strike.

READ MORE: Unions say Eskom is seeking interdict to stop strike

He warned that the picket was a “warning bullet” and said that if Eskom continued to offer workers 0% wage increases, they would shut down “all the lights in the country”.

Chirwa added that Eskom was spending R34-billion on the Independent Power Producers (IPP) despite the country having an energy surplus.

“These IPPs are the same as Gupta corruption but they are not Indian corruption…this is White Monopoly Capital.”

“There is no New Dawn… it’s a new dawn of 0% increase that wants to sell Eskom,” Chirwa told crowds of cheering workers.

Unions handed over a memorandum to Eskom leadership at 12:40 on Thursday. The memorandum states that Eskom has created a “self-imposed crisis” by signing IPPs onto the national grid. It adds that, until money lost to corruption is recovered, they reject Eskom’s claims of poverty.

Keeping the lights on

Earlier on Thursday, the power utility’s spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said Eskom’s ability to keep the lights on could be compromised with intimidation and road blockages “rife” at a number of power stations and regional offices.

Phasiwe also tweeted that the power supply to Eskom’s head office in Sunninghill had “mysteriously” been cut off.

Six power stations rely on local coal supply, and these will be the most affected by the delivery stoppages

The parastatal’s management team held an emergency meeting earlier on Thursday morning to address the possibility of load shedding.

Phasiwe promised to provide regular updates on various media platforms. A placard circulating on social media warned workers against reporting for duty at Eskom during the one-day strike saying that people would be “subjecting” themselves to risk.

However, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi distanced the labour organisation from the threatening poster.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu, meanwhile, said police on Wednesday night fired rubber bullets to disperse workers who were gathered outside the power stations in Kendal, Thuthuka, Hendrina and Arnot.

“The police are intimidating the workers, in what is an attempt to prevent the picket. One employee was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet outside Arnot power station.”

“The workers will be joining the picket despite the threats. They are determined to make our voices heard,” he said.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Eskom Hadebe said that contingency plans were in place to keep the lights on during the one-day strike but cautioned there were no guarantees the power utility would be able to do this.

Labour federation the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) leaders met Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday afternoon, and they said he promised to call Eskom’s negotiators back to the table and up their offer, in order to avert a full-blown strike. — News24

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Tehillah Niselow
Tehillah Nieselow
Tehillah Nieselow is a Journalist at Power FM. She Covers labour issues, strikes, protests and general stories

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations