Eskom’s Two Biggest Labor Unions Demand 15% Wage Increases

The two biggest unions representing workers at Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. are seeking 15% wage increases, adding to the woes confronting the loss-making South African power utility.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the National Union of Mineworkers tabled their demands at a preparatory meeting on Friday and pay talks will resume on May 4, Eskom spokesman Sikonathi Mantshantsha said by phone. Solidarity, a smaller union, wants 9.5% increases for its members, it said by text message.

South Africa’s consumer inflation rate is currently 2.9%.

Eskom is struggling to meet electricity demand due to breakdowns at its old and poorly maintained plants and isn’t generating enough cash to fund its operations and service its 464 billion rand ($33 billion) of debt. The utility bowed to pressure from labor in 2018 wage negotiations after strikes that crippled the grid, agreeing to a one-time cash payment and annual increases of at least 7%.

The latest pay demands are reasonable and affordable, with many of Eskom’s problems “manufactured” by a management that is failing to do its job, William Mabapa, the NUM’s acting general secretary said by phone.

Numsa said that it wasn’t immediately able to comment.

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