Power system remains unstable as Eskom declares dispute with unions

Eskom has declared a dispute with trade unions National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and Solidarity over the precondition that NUM and NUMSA introduced as part of the wage negotiations.

Last week at a meeting convened through the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) (Section 150) the three recognised trade unions all agreed in principle to Eskom’s three-year wage proposal and conditions of employment where bargaining unit employees would see a salary adjustment of 7,5% in 2018/19 and 7% in 2019/20 and 7% in 2020/21, an annual cost of living (CPI) adjustment to their housing allowance as well as a once-off cash payment of R10 000.

However, at the time NUM and NUMSA introduced a precondition that Eskom should not discipline employees who took part in the July/August unprotected strike. Eskom could not agree to this precondition.

In June 2018, NUM and NUMSA defied the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and its essential service provisions and embarked on unprocedural, and therefore unlawful and unprotected, strike action. This strike action included various acts of criminality, including alleged acts of sabotage and destruction of property. The industrial action led to the power system being constrained and rotational load-shedding for three days, negatively impacting the economy.

The minister of public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, intervened and called a meeting where all parties reached an understanding that the unions would end all unlawful industrial action and the company would not discipline employees who engaged in the June 2018 unlawful industrial action.

Negotiations resumed in a peaceful and orderly fashion at the Eskom Central Bargaining Forum, but no agreement was reached and at the end of July 2018 all parties commenced with the section 150 mediation process in terms of the LRA.

In July, some employees embarked on further unprotected industrial action until 3 August 2018 despite a court interdict and company communication to staff reminding employees that Eskom is an essential service. These events again led to power system constraints and load shedding. The power system will take about 30 days to recover from the effects of the illegal strike and there is a risk of further load shedding during this period.

The CCMA has closed the section 150 process in terms of the LRA as the parties deadlocked during talks. NUM and NUMSA demanded that irrespective of the outcome of the disciplinary process, no member should be dismissed.

Elsie Pule, Eskom’s group executive for human resources says the power utility reserves the right to follow its disciplinary process in line with the company’s disciplinary code and procedure. “In an effort to bring the process to a conclusion, Eskom has referred a mutual interest dispute to the CCMA. We remain positive that the process will be expeditiously resolved,” she said.

Contact Eskom, Tel 011 800-3304, mediadesk@eskom.co.za

 

 

 

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