The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) laid the blame at Eskom's feet for the protests at power stations that ultimately plunged South Africa into Stage 4 load-shedding late last week.
Speaking to Fin24 on Monday, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola denied any involvement by the union in planning the protests but said they were a direct outcome of what she called Eskom management's unwillingness to negotiate with organised labour in good faith.
Last Friday, Eskom told reporters that protests at Eskom operations following a deadlock in wage negotiations escalated from protestors obstructing access to power stations to protestors attacking Eskom employees reporting for duty.
Hlubi-Majola told Fin24 that Numsa was not behind the protests at Eskom stations but that Eskom leadership had to shoulder some responsibility for the disruptions to the entity's operations.
"What is happening at Eskom is not a Numsa initiative. It is the anger of workers at the hands of the recklessness of Andre De Ruyter and his team for walking out of negotiations. All of the anger that you are seeing is as a result of Eskom, and unions have nothing to do with it," said Hlubi-Majola.
Eskom management on Friday denied walking out of wage talks. Instead, Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer said at a briefing the entity tabled its final offer of a 5% wage increase, and certain quarters of organised labour indicated that they would not accept it.
Hlubi-Majola said it would cost Eskom about R1.2-billion to meet Numsa's downward revised demands for a 12% increase across the board, an amount the union believes is within its reach. Eskom "must own up for the rage that they provoked", she said.
"Eskom refused to engage unions and refuse to account for the billions being siphoned off through corrupt contracts while they tell unions that they cannot afford meaningful increases. For four years, we have not had a meaningful increase, while the cost of primary energy has skyrocketed to R116-billion," Hlubi Majola said.
The other unions in the now-deadlocked wage talks – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity – have denied involvement in the protests and condemned any action that disrupted Eskom's operations.
Last week the NUM told Fin24 that it tabled a wage demand ranging between 8% and 10%. Solidarity has tabled a wage demand of 5.5% across the board. Eskom has given a final offer of 5.3% to unions at the bargaining table.
Eskom added that it secured an order against the protest action and that it applied to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration for assistance in breaking the deadlock and ending the protest disruptions.