[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Eskom workers to strike?
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun Jul 1 05:47:02 BST 2007
Eskom strike could plunge SA into darkness
July 01, 2007 Edition 1
Power outages could become the bane of many South Africans' lives if
Eskom employees embark on planned strike action this week.
"Eskom will now feel the real heat of the trade union movement," said
Paris Mashego, a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) negotiator, after
talks with Eskom broke down. "It will come to the negotiating table
begging for mercy. Our members will down tools next week. We will bring
Eskom to a standstill and the officials and executives will have to
supply power themselves."
NUM, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and
Solidarity have declared they will down tools as early as Friday if
there is no quick resolution to their wage impasse.
The unions walked out of talks with Eskom on June 20, when the company's
representatives declared they did not have a mandate to negotiate with
the workers. Eskom's chief negotiator had apparently failed to attend
the scheduled meeting, at which the unions were to announce that they
had substantially adjusted their wage increase demand downward from the
But the new demand could not be formally tabled. No talks have taken
place since. Eskom is offering a 6% wage increase.
In the meantime, the unions have applied for a ruling from the
Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on whether
Eskom employees are deemed part of the essential services or not,
following the company's insistence that its workers should not strike
because they were. The CCMA will rule this week.
NUM said that the actions of the electricity supplier earlier this week
had given an "unambiguous sign for disruptions in electricity".
The union said plans were in place to bring the parastatal, already
struggling to keep up with increased electricity demands, to its knees.
Mashego and Solidarity's Dirk Hermann pointed out that it was not the
unions which had declared the dispute, but the employer.
As of tomorrow, Eskom employees will participate in lunch-time pickets
and go-slows. On Wednesday a decision will be made about when to down
tools. Friday will see the first of the national stayaways and a series
of marches in cities.
"We are very angry, our members are very angry and consumers will be
angry, too," said Mashego.
Lesiba Seshoka, a NUM spokesman, said the CCMA application involved the
minimum-service agreement, which had yet to be negotiated.
Hermann said Eskom had argued that the CCMA did not have the
jurisdiction to decide whether its employees were essential services
workers or not. He said the unions were using the public service wage
agreement as their benchmark. He said the talks had broken down because
of lack of preparation by Eskom. The company had also been "disturbed"
by the unity shown by unions.
Also contributing to tension was the fact that union negotiators who had
gone to Megawatt Park to hand over a memorandum were teargassed and
threatened with arrest because their gathering was deemed illegal.
Hermann said all efforts were being made to handle the negotiations
carefully, because electricity supply was so critical during the cold
"We would like to reach a decision without disrupting supplies. We are
trying to prevent a strike, but the employer is not prepared to
negotiate. That leaves the unions with few options," Hermann said.
Seshoka could not say whether the strike would affect supplies or not,
conceding only that "there may be disruptions".
"More than 24 000 people will be joining the strike. It means nothing
will be repaired and maybe the executives will get called in to help man
the (control) stations."
Eskom could not be reached for comment.
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