Varsities on shutdown as wage talks deadlocked

DispatchLive reports that two Eastern Cape universities, Walter Sisulu University and University of Fort Hare, remain on total shutdown as wage negotiations between management and unions remain deadlocked. Thousands of academic and non-academic staff at WSU and UFH continue to strike for better pay and better benefits. Mid-year exams at both these universities were disrupted as result of the strikes.

While UFH has postponed the disrupted exams to the next semester, WSU was yet to decide when the mid-year exams, which never took place due to the strike, will be written. WSU went on total shutdown three weeks ago. While UFH went on a total shutdown today after talks at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)  on Monday between management and the NEHAWU members failed  to break the deadlock, with the union refusing a new offer.

by Aretha Linden

Civil engineering sector concludes three-year wage deal

Engineering News reports that the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry on Tuesday announced the signing between all parties in the civil engineering sector of a three-year settlement agreement regarding wages and conditions of employment. The parties agreed to a 7.5% wage increase across the board for the first and second years. The increase for the third year will be 7.5% or the consumer price index, whichever is greater.

The settlement will come into force once promulgated by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant later this year. The employers were represented by the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors and the Consolidated Employers’ Organisation, while employees were represented by the National Union of Mineworkers and the Building Construction and Allied Workers Union.

by Anine Kilian

ESKOM tables wage hike offer of 4.7%

EWN reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says Eskom has now tabled a new wage offer of 4.7% for 2018. NUM’s spokesperson Livhuwani Mamburu took to social media earlier yesterday, saying the new wage offer was tabled on Tuesday along with a four-year agreement with inflation guaranteed.

Negotiations between Eskom and the unions are expected to continue until Thursday. Eskom says it would like to give the process a chance before making any public pronouncements.

Eskom, unions resume wage talks

eNCA reports that Eskom and trade unions have resumed wage talks on Tuesday. Negotiations are set to take place over the next three days. Three unions representing workers reached a deadlock with the power utility last week after Eskom said it would not pay any increases this year.

Workers went on strike, resulting in the implementation of load-shedding on Thursday and across the weekend. The unions are demanding wage increases of between nine and 15 percent and an additional housing allowance.

Teachers’ right to strike on the line in essential services review

BusinessLive reports that a government agency is investigating whether to declare teachers and education support staff essential services. The probe has potentially far-reaching implications, as workers who are deemed to render essential services have a limited right to strike. The Labour Relations Act defines an essential service as one that, if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of part of or all of the population.

Mugwena Maluleke, the general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, said teaching could not be an essential service because “no life is threatened once it is not rendered”. “People do not understand what the ILO [International Labour Organisation] and the Constitution say about this issue,” said Maluleke. “Our position is informed by the ILO guidelines… we will be taking part in that debate [on teaching as an essential service], but we will also consider the Essential Services Committee list as a whole.” The committee is also conducting an investigation of whether public transport services should be declared an essential service.

by Tamar Kahn & Bekezela Phakathi

Eskom’s 0% Wage offer off the table

EWN writes that Eskom’s 0% wage offer is off the table after an intervention by the Department of Public Enterprises. Minister Pravin Gordhan convened a meeting on Friday with Eskom’s board and management as well as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity. All parties agreed to negotiate a new wage deal and restore production to prevent further blackouts.

‘Strike’ is a convenient excuse

The Citizen reports that according to an electricity expert, blaming striking workers was a convenient excuse power utility Eskom was using to mask the power utility’s incompetence and inability to ensure a reliable supply. Ted Blom, a partner at Mining & Energy Advisors and Energy Expert Coalition, is not buying Eskom’s excuse for the return of load shedding.  After having warned for months that the utility was on the verge of collapse, he said the current strike was “a convenient cover for all the rubbish that has been going on at Eskom”.  Yet, according to spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom has had to reduce the strain on the national electricity grid through load shedding, as the alternative would be a catastrophic and total blackout.

Last week, he blamed the state of affairs squarely on workers’ unions, which he accused of sabotaging power stations and of criminal conduct.  On Friday, Eskom obtained a court interdict prohibiting the intimidation of workers and contractors who were not part of the wage protests.  But, Blom said he had been in contact with unions and they assured him they were committed to “blockage of labour, rather than damage”.  The unions also claimed they had not engaged in the sabotage Eskom has accused them of.  He pointed out that the strike conveniently coincided with coal running out, as Eskom had lied about having at least 20 days’ supply stockpiled at all stations.

by Earl Coetzee

NEHAWU Limpopo Unhappy With Non-Payment Of Performance Bonuses

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] in the Limpopo Province is unhappy with the continuous and uninterrupted decline of working conditions of workers in the Limpopo Department of Health. While workers have for many years tolerated shortage of personnel and material resources, things have now gone worse since workers’ benefits are not paid. The department still refuses to pay performance bonus to workers for financial year 2016/17. These are benefits which were supposed to have been paid by July 2017. On the 10th April 2018, the Limpopo Department of Health tabled a budget of R19, 5 billion which is an increase from R18, 6 billion but two months later the department pleads poverty that it can’t pay workers their benefits.

According to NEHAWU, all the departments in the Province have already concluded payment of workers benefits for the 2016/17 financial year, but it’s only the department of health that arrogantly refuses to pay workers their hard earned Performance Bonuses but yet insists that health is an essential service. The unions indicated that workers have now lost trust on boardroom engagements because the employer has completely failed to address their issues. NEHAWU has already started mobilizing its members for mass action which will culminate in a huge march towards MEC of Health, MEC of Treasury and the Premier’s office.

NEHAWU wants MEC Phophi Ramathuba:
1. Non-payment of overtime
2. Grade progression for all health professionals.
3. Consistent translation of nurses who acquired post-graduate qualification with back pay
4. Appointment of 108 non-bursary holders’ community service nurses who are currently roaming the streets while there is shortage of professional nurses in hospital and clinics
5. Absorption of community health workers as full time employees of the department

Gordhan calls on Eskom board to rethink

Business Report writes that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has called on the Eskom board to determine a wage increase it could offer to its employees as the standoff between the utility and its workers continued. The Department of Public Enterprises yesterday said Gordhan met representatives of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday “to understand the concerns from organised labour about the wage dispute with Eskom and related matters”. The department said Cosatu expressed concern about the manner in which wage negotiations have been conducted, Eskom’s insistence on a zero percent wage “offer”, and allegations that the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement programme was crowding out jobs in the mining sector.

Gordhan committed to discuss the resumption of negotiations with the Eskom board. Eskom has so far maintained that it could not afford a wage increase, given its precarious financial position. It has said that the decision not to offer a wage increase was part of efforts to set the utility on a path to financial stability.

The unions yesterday protested at Eskom’s premises.The power utility yesterday said that the industrial action had affected power supply. Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said that could compromise the utility’s ability to keep the lights on.

by Siseko Njobeni

NUM rubbishes claims Eskom workers are among higgest paid

ANA reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Thursday that it was “deeply angered” and concerned by a claim that employees at Eskom are among the highest paid in the country and earn an average salary of around R789 000 per year. “Our members do not earn that kind of money. This a lie. It is a serious insult to our members who are currently being offered a zero percent increase by Eskom. [The] Apartheid wage gap still exists at Eskom and black women are some of the lowest paid at Eskom,” NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said.

Economist Mike Schüssler tweeted on Tuesday that the average employee at the power utility earned R789 000 annually. “The average remuneration per employee at Eskom was R789 000 for the year to March 17. On average they fall within the top one percent or two percent of household income. When richest two percent strike SA has a victimhood problem,” Schüssler said in a tweet. Workers unions are currently embroiled in a wage dispute with Eskom as they demand up to 15 percent salary increments while the embattled power utility offers them a zero percent increase.