Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday called on all parties involved in the Eskom wage talks to allow time for the negotiations to succeed.
“All parties are called upon to desist from violence, intimidation or the disruption of coal deliveries to power stations,” said the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).
The Minister said it is in everyone’s best interest – workers, unions, employers, government and the public – that there is a continuous supply of electricity and that nothing is done to compromise the growth of the economy so that more jobs can be created.
The Minister’s comments come as Eskom announced earlier that the power supply is constrained as a result of industrial action that got underway today.
The DPE said it is making arrangements to engage other labour unions on the wage dispute, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).
Workers today embarked on lunchtime pickets after the power parastatal earlier this week announced that there would be a 0% wage increment.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and NUMSA on Tuesday rejected the utility’s wage offer of 0%. Unions, who are demanding a 15% wage increase, staged pickets in response to the 0% increment.
The Minister, departmental officials and Eskom Board members on Wednesday met with the leadership of Cosatu at their invitation.
“The Minister wanted to understand the concerns from organised labour about the wage dispute with Eskom and related matters. Amongst the concerns expressed by Cosatu were the manner in which wage negotiations have been conducted, the zero percent wage offer, and allegations that the Independent Power Producers programme is crowding out jobs in the mining sector,” the DPE said.
At the meeting, Gordhan explained the current challenging environment, including the contraction in economic growth in quarter one of 2018 and lower growth projections for 2018, and that government does not have the money to continuously bail-out State-owned companies.
“The Minister agreed that it was improper to raise the issue of down-sizing Eskom at the same time as the current wage negotiations. He undertook to discuss the resumption of negotiations with the Eskom Board and to ensure that a constructive and respectful atmosphere for negotiations is created,” said the department.
Gordhan said it is the responsibility of the Eskom Board to determine what kind of wage increase Eskom can offer its employees, within the framework of the board’s fiduciary responsibilities.
“The Minister is in no position to instruct the Board on this issue,” said DPE, adding that the Minister has offered to convene an information-sharing session between Eskom and Cosatu so that the company’s financial position is understood and taken into account by all parties.
In its update, the power utility said there have been several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure.