Solidarity union to agree wage deal with Eskom: source


JOHANNESBURG – Solidarity trade union will accept a three-year wage offer from state-run utility Eskom that would see pay hikes of 7.5 percent this year followed by annual rises of 7 percent, a union source told Reuters on Tuesday.

Cash-strapped Eskom, which provides virtually all of South Africa’s power, initially said it could afford no increases, angering unions and triggering protests that led to a spate of controlled blackouts in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Eskom has two offers on the table, with the other being 7 percent raises for three consecutive years along with hikes in housing allowance benefits linked to inflation.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), one of the two other unions involved in the wage talks, said in a statement that it would take the latest offers back to its members and that wage talks would be held again on July 27.

Irvin Jim, General Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), said in remarks broadcast on the eNCA news network that it would also present the offers to its members. The trio of unions accounts for over half of Eskom’s workforce.

The source for Solidarity, which represents mostly skilled workers, said late on Tuesday that a settlement had not yet been signed but the offer “was well within” the mandate of its members, meaning it was effectively a done deal.

Repairing Eskom’s depleted balance sheet is a major challenge for President Cyril Ramaphosa. Sources in the ruling African National Congress have said Eskom assets may be sold off but this would likely face stiff union opposition.

Eskom is regularly cited as a threat to South Africa’s credit rating because it has more than 220 billion rands ($16.6 billion) of government-guaranteed debt.