Three unions at Eskom have rejected what the power utility has characterised as its third and 'final' offer of a 5.25% wage increase.
This comes as Eskom, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and Solidarity concluded the third round of wage negotiations at the Centralised Bargaining Forum (CBF) on Tuesday.
Numsa and NUM had both initially wanted a 15% hike, among other demands, while Solidarity was aiming for 10.1%. Eskom initially offered a 3.75% hike, and increased it to 4.5% which was subsequently rejected by all three unions.
During this week's negotiations, NUM dropped its demand to 11%, Numsa 12% and Solidarity 9.5%, before rejecting Eskom's 5.24% "final offer". However, all parties reached a settlement on the amendment of Eskom's grievance and disciplinary procedures.
There is still one last round of negotiations left, which is expected to start in mid-June.
"Eskom is hopeful that it and the labour unions will find each other for the benefit of the company and in the best interests of the country," the power utility said.
In 2022, a violent, unprotected strike dealt a heavy blow to Eskom's already fragile capacity to generate electricity, leading to Stage 6 load shedding. The state-owned power utility ultimately reached a 7% wage increase agreement with unions.
Solidarity deputy secretary general Helgard Cronje told News24 on Friday that the trade union viewed "the fact that Eskom moved twice in a very positive light".
"To us it's disappointing that Eskom's offer is so far below CPI. Essentially we view the purpose of the increase as a measure to insure that our members do not become poorer. On top of this Eskom has been losing critical skills at an alarming rate over the last few years. A way needs to be found to retain these employees and a 5.25% increase will not achieve that."
He said that the last rounded ended on a positive note, and that Solidarity was still committed to finding a solution within the the negotiation process, "which is far better than where we were last year during the same phase of negotiations".
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said in a statement on Friday that while R254-billion in debt relief was allocated to Eskom, a large portion of that will be used towards covering diesel costs. He said that while Eskom was spending money on "bloated" primary energy contracts for coal and diesel, it was Eskom employees "who are working tirelessly to keep the grid from collapsing and keep the lights on".
"Therefore Treasury must allocate money to meet the wage demands which workers are making," he said.
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