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News : Blackout Blackmail Works

A wage deal could be signed this week between Eskom and three unions, averting a strike that had threatened to disrupt electricity supply, to wreak havoc on the economy and to tarnish South Africa's impeccable record so far of hosting of the World Cup.

The revised offer emerged after marathon talks at the weekend that began on Friday, continued on Saturday until 11pm and resumed again yesterday morning. At midday yesterday unions had agreed to recommend to members a wage increase of 9 percent and a R1 500 monthly minimum housing allowance.


Dirk Hermann, the deputy general secretary of Solidarity, said yesterday: "The final agreement will be signed this week." Solidarity has a mandate from its members to accept the offer. Hermann added that the revised offer was a relief.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) will recommend to its members to accept the offer.

Paris Mashego, the chief negotiator at Eskom for the NUM, said in terms of current inflation at 4.6 percent the offer was reasonable. "We have put serious pressure on Eskom. We have done well."

Castro Ngobese, the spokesman for Numsa, said: "If we demand anything more Eskom might collapse."

Labour's demands of a 9 percent wage hike and a R5 500 housing subsidy, which Eskom did not fully meet in its revised offer, would have added R1 billion above what the National Energy Regulator of SA approved during the multi-year price determination process. Eskom could not be reached for comment.
The wage increase is in line with the revised demand from the unions, but the housing allowance fell short of the revised R2 500 a month labour wanted. Unions had initially demanded a 20 percent wage hike and a R5 500 monthly housing allowance. The offer, made at the weekend, is an improvement on Eskom's initial offer of a 5.5 percent wage hike.

The deal has not only secured a wage hike well above inflation, but advanced a long-running issue for the unions of the housing allowance.

The revised offer will see 13 000 workers who had not previously received a housing subsidy receive one for the first time and take home an extra R1 500 a month, a further 9 250 staff will get a increase in their existing housing allowance up to R1 500 a month, while the balance of 7 800 workers, who already receive a housing allowance of R1 500 or more, will not get additional housing allowance.

Although the strike that was due to begin this week has been called off, Numsa and the NUM must still sell the deal to their members. Both unions said the recent splurging by Eskom on World Cup tickets and awarding steep increases to top executives would not help them secure members approval of the wage deal.

Ngobese said: "Eskom is not helping us with this reckless spending."

It was reported at the weekend that Eskom spent R12 million on World Cup tickets, while Eskom's annual report showed that some executives received increases in remuneration of up to 91 percent. Source BUSREP

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