More than 15 000 National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) employees at Eskom are expected to embark on a full-blown strike in all nine provinces, the union said on Tuesday.
In a statement, the union said the Eskom employees in all nine provinces would embark on a full-blown strike on Wednesday.
“The decision to strike was taken at an urgent NUM Eskom national shop stewards council held at the NUM head office today [Tuesday]. All 15 000 members of the NUM at Eskom will be fighting for the restoration of the right to strike at Eskom,” the union said in a statement.
“The right to strike is enshrined in the constitution of South Africa and Eskom has stolen that right to strike from our members. It is going to be a total withdrawal of labour by our members.”
The union said that NUM members would be striking for their right to strike at the power utility.
“Our members’ right to strike cannot be taken away by anybody including Eskom’s arrogant management. The NUM members are very disturbed and angry with the attitude of Eskom in refusing to close the apartheid wage gap,” the NUM said.
“After 22 years of democracy, Eskom is still paying its workers based on the apartheid system. White employees are still being paid more than black employees. When NUM members raise these injustices and to embark on a strike, Eskom always reminds them that it has been declared an essential service and they cannot go on a strike.
“The NUM members are sick and tired of being threatened and reminded that Eskom is an essential service and Eskom is not doing anything to resolve their problems.”
NUM was demanding a 10% increase for the lowest paid employees and 8.5% for the highest paid employees at Eskom, and a R3 000 housing allowance.
Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
Eskom has offered workers a 7% increase.
On Monday, Eskom workers affiliated to the NUM downed tools after protracted wage negotiations broke down over the weekend at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Wage negotiations for Eskom workers entered their fourth week on Monday after they began in mid-July.
At the time, the NUM’s Eskom energy sector coordinator, Paris Mashego, said NUM members were also angered by the low wage offer Eskom was putting on the table when it had made an unprecedented R4.6 billion profit for the year.
Mashego said since negotiations had deadlocked, each party could apply for interest arbitration, a process whereby the issues not resolved in bargaining between the employer and the union may be presented to an impartial arbitrator for final resolution.
However on Monday, Phasiwe had denied that there was industrial action at the utility, saying any employee who was absent without leave would be held accountable.
“There’s no strike at Eskom. From our side, those are fugitives who are not at work and should account to their managers when they return,” Phasiwe said on Monday.
“They know that they cannot go on strike as they are essential service, just like the army or emergency services.”
Phasiwe said Eskom was still open to negotiations with the NUM.
Meanwhile, Eskom released a statement saying it would mark exactly one year of no load shedding on Tuesday, largely due to the rigorous plant maintenance programme that it had executed over the past 12 months.
– African News Agency (ANA)