Eskom’s biggest union demands 15% wage hike as power cuts worsen

13th April 2023 By: Bloomberg

Eskom’s biggest union demands 15% wage hike as power cuts worsen

Photo by: Creamer Media's Donna Slater

The biggest labour union at South Africa’s Eskom Holdings wants a 15% wage increase even as the utility fails to generate adequate electricity to meet the country’s needs, resulting in nationwide power cuts.

The National Union of Mineworkers wants the same raise for all workers along with other increases in allowances for housing and other benefits, it said in a copy of the letter to Eskom seen by Bloomberg.

Wage negotiations at the utility come at a contentious time for Eskom and South Africa. Measures implemented by President Cyril Ramaphosa to end power shortages have included expanding a program to buy renewable energy, implementing a national state of disaster that was retracted and appointing an electricity minister, but the ongoing outages have deepened in recent days.

Labor settled on a one-year contract with Eskom in 2022 following violent protests that intimidated some workers from reporting for duty and increased power shortages that contributed to an all-time record. Eskom employees aren’t allowed to strike legally, because the provision of electricity is considered an essential service.

Solidarity, another labour union at the utility, has also submitted its demand for a pay increase of three percentage points above the average inflation rate.

South Africa’s average inflation rate was 6.9% last year and the central bank projects that will slow to 6% for 2023.