© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Representatives from three trade unions attend a news conference where they announced that they have rejected energy utility Eskom’s 3.75% wage offer, saying it’s below the 7.1% rate of inflation, in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 21, 2023
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Labour unions rejected a 3.75% pay rise offer from South Africa’s power utility Eskom as it is below the rate of inflation, union representatives said on Friday.
Unions are demanding a 15% increase in wages at Eskom, which is implementing rolling blackouts of about 10 hours a day as it struggles to meet electricity demand. In recent years the company has relied on government bailouts for survival.
South Africa’s consumer price inflation stood at 7.1% year on year in March.
Negotiators for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and Solidarity, which are the three biggest unions at Eskom, said they wanted to sign a two-year wage agreement “so that we can have an opportunity to stabilise the power utility”.
So far Eskom has refused to make concessions.
The workers’ demands include an increased danger allowance.
Usually this compensates workers for the risk of working with high voltages, but NUMSA deputy general secretary Mbuso Ngubane said public outrage caused by rolling blackouts had created a new threat and made workers “vulnerable out there in communities”.
The unions have not publicly stated how much they want the danger allowance to increase.
A deadlock in negotiations, which resume on May 8, could lead to strikes that might worsen the power outages.