Eskom management waste time during wage talks – NUMSA

Union says the power utility is not negotiating in good faith

NUMSA condemns Eskom management for unprofessionalism and for wasting time during wage talks

19 April 2023

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) met with Eskom management in the Central Bargaining Forum (CBF), for the first day of wage talks. Eskom management behaved appallingly by failing to present written submissions to the CBF. We were supposed to start negotiations at 9am, but we ended up starting at 12:45pm because Eskom needed time to write its submissions, so that it could be shared with all parties. It took them nearly three hours to respond!

Secondly, when they eventually did respond, they wasted everyone’s time again, by falsely claiming that most of the demands which we had made, should not be ventilated in the CBF, but should be raised in other Eskom forums. This is nonsense. They did not even respond to the demands, to say whether they can afford them or not. They simply tried to defer them to other forums for discussion. They are not negotiating in good faith because these are same issues which have definitely been raised in the CBF before and a collective agreement was reached on them. This is another delay tactic to drag these negotiations out unnecessarily, when the whole nation is engulfed in the perpetual crisis of loadshedding.

The only demand which Eskom responded to was to inform us that they want a one-year agreement, and they are only offering 3,75% increase.

NUMSA’s core demands are:

A two year wage agreement

15% wage increase

Correcting the income differentials

6 months full pay maternity leave and 14 days paternity leave

80% medical aid contribution from the employer and 20% contribution from workers

No closure of power stations

Housing allowance increase of R1175

No to the closure of coal power stations

We condemn Eskom for their unprofessionalism and also for their frequent delay tactics. This is not how the executive management of a SOE should behave. It is unheard of negotiators to arrive to a session of this nature with written notes, instead of a clear presentation of their position. What is worse, is that by last week Thursday all unions had submitted their demands, so they had enough time to prepare properly for the session and it is unacceptable for them to be so unprepared. This is a reflection of the pathetic state of leadership within Eskom at the moment. This is why we are permanently in the dark from loadshedding because we are led by people who do not take themselves, Eskom, or even the public seriously.

We also want to deal with this absurd narrative that has been dominating in the media that the loadshedding we are experiencing is because of the wage talks. It is interesting to note that the right-wing publications which promote this narrative, never blame the executive management of Eskom for loadshedding, particularly when the entity was run by the worst CEO in the history of Eskom, Mr. Andre De Ruyter. We are experiencing loadshedding because Eskom to date has shutdown units at coal fired power stations. So far we have lost at least 2200MW of coal generation capacity power which we desperately need. Eskom is planning to shut down more coal generating units, totalling 5000MW by 2025 and cumulatively 11000MW by 2030.

At the same time, loadshedding has been happening persistently for years, whether we are engaged in wage negotiations or not. Last year workers picketed for two days during wage talks which exacerbated the outages, their picket did not cause the outages.

Another lie which is peddled by right-wingers in the media is that workers at Eskom earn generous packages. Again, we must consistently educate journalists to go and read the Eskom financial statements and see for themselves what Eskom’s true cost drivers are. Independent Power Producers (IPPs), Coal cost and Diesel Open Cycle Gas Turbines) costs are skyrocketing every year and wreaking havoc with Eskom’s balance sheet. The beneficiaries of these contracts are companies from the private sector.

In comparison, workers’ wages and benefits have remained flat over the last 6 years. The total cost of the wage bill at Eskom, including the generous packages of the executive management has remained flat and has not exceeded R33 billion since the 2016/2017 financial year till financial year 2021/2022, while Primary Energy cost (Coal, IPPs, Diesel Open Cycle Gas Turbines) ballooned from R83 Billion in 2016/2017 to R132 Billion in 2021/2022. We will continue to publicly expose any journalist or media house that continues to peddle the lie that workers’ wages at Eskom are exorbitant. If media houses want to be taken seriously, they must be factual. WE know that most media houses are captured by corporate interests which is probably why some media houses frequently peddle this false narrative.

This round of talks will continue this week until the 21st of April 2023. We hope that when we reconvene tomorrow, the Eskom management will be better prepared.

Issued by Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, NUMSA National Spokesperson, 20 April 2023