Labour unions have received the go-ahead from striking Eskom workers to accept the power utility’s offer for a 7% wage increase, costing Eskom an extra R1 billion.
The National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa), National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and Solidarity came to the agreement with Eskom on Tuesday. Both Eskom and Numsa confirmed the signing of the wage deal.
The long-awaited agreement comes after the strike of essential service workers at Eskom saw the power utility having no option but to implement Stage 6 load shedding last week, plunging the country into its worst bout of rolling blackouts.
Apart from the 7% wage bump, Eskom workers have also won a R400 increase in housing allowance as well as the reinstatement of the conditions of service.
“As Numsa we are pleased to have finally resolved this round of wage talks, particularly given the difficult circumstances that we faced,” the union said in a statement.
“The conditions of service which were unilaterally withdrawn, and which caused so much pain to our members, have been restored. We have also secured an improvement from last year, after Eskom imposed 1.5%.”
Eskom has further voiced expectations that workers who still remain absent from their duties will return to work tomorrow. However, speaking at a briefing on Tuesday, Num’s General Secretary Makgabo Mabapa said although the union echoes the call for all members to return to work, he can not confirm when they will do so.
“We’ll put our focus on those four power stations – [where workers remain absent]- and plead with the workers that the agreement has been signed, what they’ve been fighting for has been resolved therefore they must go back to work. As to when, I don’t know, I don’t want to commit,”
Meaning that although the strike by workers has officially ended, South African’s should expect their load shedding woes to continue. Eskom has confirmed this by maintaining that the return to normalcy in terms of energy supply remains far-off.
“It is important to note that while the workforce is returning to work, the system will still take some time to recover. As a result of the strike, maintenance work has had to be postponed, and this backlog will take time to clear.”
According to a Num union representative union members have also asked Eskom to not take disciplinary action against workers who failed to pitch for work to perform their essential duties of keeping the country’s lights on.
However, should Eskom decide to follow through with disciplinary action, both Numsa and Num leaders have vowed to represent workers against such action.
“We strongly believe that we also reserve the right if there is an action against workers. One of the responsibilities of trade union representatives is to represent our members. So I want to put it very clear that if there will be any actions taken, we will represent our members,” Mabapa says.