No wage agreement reached with Eskom, Gordhan should retract statement: NUM

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The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is adamant that the Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan should immediately retract the announcement he made on Tuesday.

Gordhan said that he was hopeful that Eskom would avoid implementing stage six rolling blackouts for a second consecutive day on Wednesday after the power utility and unions had reached a wage agreement.

However, the NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mmamburu says no such agreement has been reached. He argues that Eskom has made a new wage offer which will be discussed when the wage negotiations between it and unions resume on Friday.

“We haven’t taken that offer that was tabled by Eskom yesterday to our members to decide whether they accept it or not. It must first be presented in the central bargaining forum this Friday, where after that it will be taken to our members whether they’re accepting it or not. What the minister is doing is reckless and he is jeopardising the wage negotiations.”

‘Agreement or no agreement’ 

However, the power utility’s spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha reiterates that an agreement between Eskom and the unions has been reached in principle.

“Eskom has reached an agreement in principle which will be presented at the bargaining forum which will then deliberate on it. Then unions will take the offer to their members and the members will make a decision on whether they agree to it or not.”

Eskom is currently implementing stage 4 load shedding until 16H00 pm on Wednesday afternoon after which it will ramp up to stage 6, citing the effects of its workers’ unprotected wage strike.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola says Eskom’s behaviour during wage negotiations is what provoked workers to embark on a strike:

Unscheduled maintenance

Energy analyst Hartmut Winkler says Eskom should explain the high levels of unscheduled maintenance. He says rolling blackouts could worsen as the country endures stage 6.

Winkler says this is extremely worrying.

“So, Eskom knew that this was going to be a difficult period, for them, I think that’s why they already warned us a month or two ago. They often talk about scheduled maintenance, equipment which is down due to scheduled maintenance and things that are unscheduled maintenance The unscheduled, has always been about 15 gigawatts, that’s about 15 stages of load shedding, and that’s unusually high, and that seems to be persisting right through the year. I think Eskom maybe should be telling us are they in a situation where a lot of their capacity they’ve basically given up on, and that’s why they know that they can’t really do very much.”

‘Challenges not new’

Minister Gordhan conceded on Tuesday that the energy challenges facing the country are not new and that the country’s Integrated Resource Plan should be addressing the crisis.