Eskom chief executive Phakamani Hadebe has pleaded with organised labour and Eskom workers to return to work while an amicable solution was being sought to their wage demands.
This comes after Tuesday's announcement by organised unions that workers will be partaking in protests at Eskom’s Megawatt Park offices in Johannesburg and other Eskom power stations on Thursday.
In a media briefing on Wednesday, Hadebe announced that Solidarity and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had taken the state-owned-entity to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) over the company’s refusal to increases workers’ wages.
“We welcome the move to have an independent arbitrator assisting in resolving the impasse between workers and management,” said Hadebe, who also urged unions and workers to allow this process to take its course before resorting to protest action.
Hadebe insisted that the lack of a wage increment was not an isolated decision, explaining that since taking over office the board and senior management have specifically been busy solving liquidity issues within the parastatal.
In this endeavour, “the company has reduced capital expenditure from R55 billion to R45 billion, there has also been a cut in operational expenditure from R142 billion to R130 billion as well as maintenance costs that have been maintained at R19 billion even though an increase was necessary,” said Hadebe.
The chief executive also said management had accepted a “no-wage-increase” and agreed to not receiving bonuses this year as well as the fact that no appointments will be made within top management positions for the foreseeable future.
Hadebe said it was under these circumstances that the decision to not increase wages for workers was taken.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the Num on Wednesday held a joint media briefing in which they rejected what they called an “insulting” wage offer of zero percent by Eskom.
The two unions maintained their demand of a 15% increase across the board, a housing allowance increase of R2 000, the banning of labour brokers, and the insourcing of workers such as cleaners and security guards.
The unions also requested paid maternity leave for six months and paid paternity leave for one month.
They rubbished Eskom’s request for workers to be more understanding taking into consideration the crisis the company was facing, and said “workers should not suffer due to the plundering that has taken place at the state-owned entity”.
The unions also demanded an urgent meeting with the Eskom board, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Energy Minister Jeff Radebe and warned that workers will be demonstrating outside Eskom’s Megawatt Park offices in Johannesburg and other Eskom power stations nationwide on Thursday.
Hadebe said his wish was that matters will not come to that and said in the instance that workers did demonstrate on Thursday they should not “intimidate other workers choosing not to partake in the demonstrations” and warned that there will be tactical units on standby to protect Eskom property from any damage.
With the demonstrations looming, Hadebe also made them aware of the fact that legally Eskom workers cannot partake in protest action because they are deemed as essential services workers.