The National Union of Metalworkers South Africa has rejected Eskom's proposal to institute disciplinary action against workers who participated in industrial action during protracted wage negotiations, on the grounds that the power utility is an essential service.
On Wednesday Eskom declared a dispute with trade unions Numsa, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity over a precondition for the wage talks that the state-owned electricity company should not punish employees who took part in the July/August unprotected strike. Eskom has referred the dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
In a statement, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said Eskom's position was not only provocative but consistently undermined unions, adding that the utility's leadership, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and energy minister Jeff Radebe had not taken their request for an urgent meeting seriously.
"The situation is intensifying as our members will soon be demanding full implementation of what has been secured in negotiations and they are fully rejecting Eskom’s intention to dismiss them," Jim said.
"This is why, once more, we are calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister Pravin Gordhan, Jeff Radebe and the Eskom board to convene an urgent meeting to resolve the current deadlock, centred on Eskom’s stated intention to dismiss workers."
"We further note Eskom’s ill-advised decision to declare a dispute against unions. This is a demonstration of inferior, if not stupid, human resource leadership as it constitutes a reckless, provocative decision by management that refuses to learn," Jim added.