Eskom Pay Strike to Widen as South African Court Orders Halt

  • Utility and union scheduled to meet this morning for talks
  • Law views utility’s work as essential service; strike illegal

Members of the biggest union at South Africa’s power utility plan to broaden a strike to more plants across the country, even after the company obtained a court order against the stoppage.

All 15,000 members of the National Union of Mineworkers at Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., or about a third of its employees, are expected to join a strike that started at four plants on Aug. 8, spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said by phone Wednesday. Labor law considers work at the utility an essential service, which doesn’t allow such actions.

The Labor Court granted Eskom an order against the stoppage Tuesday, Khulu Phasiwe, a spokesman for the utility, said by phone. “People are not allowed to go on strike, they’re not allowed to picket, they’re not allowed to march.”

The utility, which supplies about 95 percent of power to Africa’s most-industrialized economy, has said it has contingency plans for a strike, and operations are proceeding as normal. Since the walkout started, the NUM again lowered its highest pay demand to 10 percent and Eskom has raised its offer to as much as 9 percent.

Eskom and three unions including the NUM have agreed to assistance from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in the dispute, with talks scheduled for Thursday, the group said in an e-mailed statement. NUM negotiators Helen Diatile and Paris Mashego didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Eskom has noticed some incidents of protest, including people trying to block a road to the Matla power station, which have been dealt with, Phasiwe said.

“We have contingency plans in place to ensure that our operations are not impacted,” Eskom said in a statement. “However, we wish to point out that there may be a slight delay in response times to electricity-related incidents in some areas due to the
illegal industrial action.”

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