Gordhan commits to giving Eskom workers increases - Cosatu
Johannesburg- Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has committed to ensure Eskom does not go back to the negotiating table with the same offer of a 0% wage increase, according to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) whose national leaders held a meeting with him on Wednesday afternoon.
The power utility in a press briefing on Wednesday said that there were contingency measures in place to keep the lights on amidst lunchtime pickets on Thursday.
The picket outside Eskom’s head office in Sunninghill will still go ahead on Thursday, despite Cosatu’s meeting, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary David Sipunzi told Fin24.
The NUM, a Cosatu affiliate and the National Union of Metalworkers are demanding a 15% wage increase, while Eskom is offering a 0% hike and the negotiations have been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
“Cosatu made it very clear to the Minister that while we support his efforts to turn around and clean up the State-Owned Entities, we will not allow a situation where workers are forced to pay for the sins of others,” Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Pamla told Fin24 that the meeting with Gordhan was of a “political” nature and they did not involve the NUM as the affiliate has its own programme of action but the federation was concerned about the issues and a possible strike at the power utility.
According to Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe, the energy giant is in a “difficult financial position" and has had to reduce operating expenditure while working to improve revenue.
“Our position is that the 0% offer made to workers by the Eskom negotiators is offensive and provocative,” Pamla commented.
Saftu calls for mass support
At the same time, a separate statement by Numsa’s parent body, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) on Wednesday, called on members, workers and South Africans to support the “mass protests” by Eskom workers on Thursday.
“A 0% increase means the wage level agreed [to] last year has to stretch to cover all these increased costs over than year. Every worker will be poorer,” Saftu’s spokesperson Patrick Craven said.
According to Craven, the employees’ fight at Eskom is similar to challenges facing all South African workers.
“All the capitalist employers are on the offensive. They are destroying jobs daily; more work is being outsourced, casualised or given to labour brokers.”
Saftu has invited over 80 civil society organisations and other trade union federations including Cosatu, to a “Working Class Summit to discuss the worsening conditions of the working class,” said Craven
Numsa has been working closely with its former sister affiliate and rival, the NUM in opposing the 0% wage offer by Eskom. The two unions held a joint press conference on Tuesday to announce plans for Thursday’s protests.
The third significant union at Eskom, Solidarity has declared a dispute with the power utility at the CCMA, and their opening demand is a 9.5% increase.
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