Eskom strike may hit fans

[] — The largest union representing Eskom workers have decided to go ahead with a strike next week, which may leave households and businesses in the dark during the World Cup.

The National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) leaders have voted on Thursday to go on strike at Eskom from next week.

Eskom human resources managing director Bhabhalazi Bulungu said the public utility was waiting for formal communication from NUM and was still holding out hope of meeting the union on Wednesday.

Eskom would continue to seek dialogue while trying to prevent a strike.

“There are many options we can do. We can go to court again for an interdict.

“We will continue to talk to them. We will talk to the highest leadership in the (Eskom) board. We will go to the chairperson of the board. We talk to the minister (of public enterprises).”

If the NUM did strike, Bulungu said Eskom would be prepared.

“We will take measures to ensure the security of the supply.”

A strike during the World Cup is unlikely to hamper electricity supply to stadiums that have standby diesel generators, but may anger millions hoping to watch matches on television.

Worse still for the economy, manufacturers and mining companies in the world’s top platinum and fourth-largest gold producer could be forced to shut operations, affecting prices.

The rand also took a hit on Tuesday amid jitters ahead of the NUM vote. Traders expect the union’s decision to go ahead with the strike will weigh on the local market.

Negotiations between NUM and Eskom have broken down over demands of a wage increase and housing allowance.

Seshoka said Eskom’s most recent offer was for an 8.5% increase and a R1 000 housing allowance.

Unions had been insisting on a nine percent increase and a R2 500 housing allowance. Seshoka said the NUM would have been willing to compromise on the wage increase if management had acceded to their housing allowance demand.

“They’ve rejected the 8.5% and the R1 000 housing allowances. If you want 8.5% then the housing allowance has to be R2 500.”

Bulungu said earlier that Eskom was planning meetings with the public utility’s other unions, Solidarity and the National Union of Metalworkers, on Wednesday.

They would also try and get a meeting with the NUM. Seshoka dismissed this possibility.

“I don’t see how they can at this point meet (on Wednesday).”

If all three unions striked, some 27 500 of Eskom’s 30 000 workforce would not report for work.