Monday, 27 June 2022 16:19

Eskom refers unions wage demands for mediation.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Eskom says most of its workforce is in place, despite some ongoing demonstrations that started last week after a breakdown in wage negotiations, though generation capacity has yet to improve.

"The greater majority of employees are reporting for duty," Eskom's media desk said in an emailed reply. There were still some 'sporadic protests’ and demonstrations on Monday and there's more generation capacity unavailable than there was in previous days.

Wage negotiations between labour groups and Eskom ended in a deadlock last week, followed by protests at the majority of its coal-fired power stations that generate the bulk of electricity. Power outages that are implemented to protect the grid from a total collapse were extended until Wednesday as the utility builds up emergency reserves.

The system had about 22,500 megawatts of generation capacity unavailable at midday today, Eskom said. In the previous three days, that amount only ranged between 20,000 and 21,200 megawatts, showing a deterioration in performance.

Strike action at Eskom is illegal because electricity is considered an essential service. "Disciplinary processes will commence once the situation is under control," Eskom said. "At this point in time, our efforts and resources are directed at keeping the lights on."

The developments have added to Eskom's struggle to meet electricity demand with unreliable and mostly ageing stations, while even its newest plants are prone to defects.

On Friday, Eskom was granted a court order stopping the unprotected strike at nine power stations and facilities. Incidents of intimidation of employees and blocking roads to power stations and facilities were reported. As a result‚ on Friday load-shedding was ramped up to stage 4 and Eskom said it would continue until Wednesday. However‚ the power utility warned the load-shedding stage could increase or decrease at short notice.

Concerning the wage increase demands‚ Eskom found the demands unaffordable and had referred the matter to the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and National Union of Mineworkers‚ which represent most of Eskom’s workforce of about 42‚300 workers‚ wanted a one-year‚ 15% pay rise across the board‚ while Solidarity was demanding a 5.5% overall increase.

Numsa has since reduced its demand to 12%. The newspaper said Eskom was offering a one-year pay hike deal for increases of 5.3%‚ 4.5% and 4% for its 28‚374 employees in the bargaining unit. Employees in the bargaining unit are spread across different salary scales.