Eskom denies Numsa’s claims


ESKOM has denied claims that it had deliberately collapsed salary negotiations with union representatives because it could not answer how it was “corruptly” spending billions on diesel, coal and independent power producers contracts.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim on Wednesday, 22 June, claimed the power utility’s management met representatives of unions at the central bargaining council to discuss salary increases.

However, alleged Jim, when his union opened the negotiations by raising the issue of billions spent on diesel, coal and independent producers the company refused to answer, declared a dispute and walked out of talks.

Jim said the union was shocked and dismayed that the Eskom management, under its CEO Andre De Ruyter, has stooped so low as to collapse central bargaining, because it refuses to account for “corrupt” deals paid with the taxpayers’ money.

“We have repeatedly requested that Eskom disclose in full the nature of these contracts, who are the beneficiaries, and their value, but they have refused. We successfully demonstrated to the Central Bargaining Forum last week that primary energy costs were collapsing Eskom.

“We were able to show that Eskom can afford to pay workers increases, but they choose not to. De Ruyter and the board are taking away workers’ benefits and wages to fund dirty procurement contracts,” he said.

Eskom spokesman Sikhonathi Mantshantsha refuted the claims, saying parties simply reached a deadlock despite the company making an increase offer of between 4% and 5.3%.

“The staggered increase is an attempt by Eskom to help narrow the wage gap. The bargaining forum is a forum for wage negotiations, which Eskom was prepared to discuss,” he said.

But Jim claimed that the power utility refused to make any counter offer on any of the union demands by simply claiming they were unaffordable without providing any financial statements to back this up.

He claimed that the union presented to the bargaining forum four key issues which highlighted how Eskom was wasteful and how the prices of primary energy costs have risen under the new management while the wage costs have remained flat in the past four years.

“Eskom management is inefficient and continues to overspend. Eskom overspent on diesel by a whopping R9 billion for the 2021/22 financial year. The total costs spent on diesel powered (Eskom and Independent Power Producers), amounts to R12,6 billion in one single year. This happened while Nersa (National Energy Regulator of South Africa) limited the costs to R3,5 billion since it is financially unsustainable to use OCGTs (open circle gas turbines) extensively,” he said.

Jim argued that workers’ wages do not affect Eskom’s balance sheet negatively. There are other costs, he further argued, that were responsible for the entity’s spiraling debt levels.

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