Eskom calls union wage demands unaffordable in tense negotiation

Eskom Holdings said the South African state utility is unable to agree to certain union demands over wage increases and declined to make an offer on basic salary until labor groups respond.

The loss-making electricity provider “cannot afford” proposals such as an improvement in pay inequality, according to a May 4 letter reviewed by Bloomberg. A request by unions to raise worker housing allowance has “no justification” and the required funds aren’t available in any case, the company said.


Subscribe for full access to all our share and unit trust data tools, our award-winning articles, and support quality journalism in the process.

Eskom has R464 billion in debt and is the most prominent of the government-owned companies burdening state finances, while regularly resorting to power cuts to keep the grid from overloading. The utility bowed to pressure from labor in 2018 wage negotiations after strike action, agreeing to a one-time cash payment and annual increases of at least 7%.

Read: SA seeks lesser of two evils with Eskom debt options

The utility “is not at this stage in a position to table a possible offer in terms of a percentage increase to basic salary, as this is dependent on the union responses to the above,” it said.

An Eskom spokesman declined to comment further.

Eskom’s biggest two labour groups, The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the National Union of Mineworkers, are seeking wage increases of 15%. Solidarity, a smaller group, wants 9.5% increases for its members.

“They must give us an offer,” said Livhuwani Mammburu, a spokesman for NUM.

© 2021 Bloomberg