Starting wage talks at 0% was an error: Eskom chair Mabuza

Date: Jun 26, 2018

Eskom Chairman Jabu Mabuza on Monday said it may have been “tactically wrong” to start wage negotiations with unions representing employees at the power utility at zero percent.

“When you deal with the issues of wages, I think we could have handled this issue better as Eskom. It was perhaps tactically wrong to go in the negotiation chamber and say we are going to have a zero percent increase. I think that was a bit wrong,” he said.

Mabuza – who also chairs Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) – made the comments at the Oyster Box in uMhlanga on Monday morning.

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He was responding to questions after a speech to BLSA Durban members by Phumzile Langeni, who is part of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s special envoy for investment. Langeni was updating members on Ramaphosa’s call to attract $100 billion in investment.

Mabuza said the decision of a zero per cent wage increase had come as Eskom chief executive, Phakamani Hadebe, announced that the company needed to look at cost-cutting areas such as freezing posts, freezing salary increases and forfeiting bonuses.

“But because of the timing when he made that announcement, it was inside the chamber. So, unions on the other side, rightfully so, said we are coming with 15%, you are coming with zero, you are mad, you are arrogant,” said Mabuza.

Eskom two weeks ago rejected a salary increase of between nine and 15% that was proposed by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity.

The company’s insistence on zero per cent saw employee protests throughout the country and take part in alleged acts of sabotage that led to sporadic load-shedding nationwide.

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