Striking Eskom workers are paid far too much — Economist
Eskom workers participating in a wage-related strike that has plunged South Africa into stage 6 load-shedding are already getting paid too much. Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt has said.
Roodt was speaking to Sunday newspaper Rapport regarding the striking workers’ complaints about being paid too little.
According to the report, the lowest remuneration for an unionised Eskom general worker is R176,820 per year, or R14,735 per month.
Rapport noted this salary was above the average of R14,696 reported in BankservAfrica’s average take-home pay in South Africa in May.
The salary at the general worker level can go up to R221,820 per year, or R18,485 per month.
Roodt said these amounts were “hopelessly” too high for the type of work done by general workers.
However, the economist said the question that should be asked is whether Eskom personnel were worth the money the state-owned power utility was paying them.
He maintained that Eskom’s annual salary increase for the lowest salary level over the last five years was in line with inflation, even though there was no requirement that it should be.
He also argued that Eskom workers should be happy with lower salaries than those in the private industry because they enjoyed job guarantees that non-government employees did not.
At the same time, however, Roodt believes that Eskom engineers and technicians, who earn a maximum annual salary of up to R650,460, were underpaid when considering their level of qualifications and job duties.
The striking workers first downed tools on 23 June after wage negotiations between Eskom and labour unions broke down.
The workers have since disrupted operations and routine maintenance at Eskom’s power stations.
The utility has estimated the lack of personnel was to blame for around 2,700MW of outages, almost three stages of load-shedding.
Power station managers have also had their homes and cars petrol bombed in apparent attempts to scare them off from reporting for duty.
Eskom’s leadership has warned the striking workers that they are participating in an unprotected and illegal protest.
According to the utility, the provision of electricity was an essential service, similar to policing, which meant the workers did not have a legal right to strike.
On Friday, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said that the utility would take disciplinary action against the workers, which could include the docking of pay.
Police also confirmed two cases of intimidation had been opened relating to the attacks on plant managers.
The unions representing the workers, NUM and Numsa, have said they told their workers to report for duty.
But even after this, Eskom reported that 90% of employees at three power stations had not returned to their posts.
The utility referred questions from the media over why they were still not reporting for work to the unions.
Eskom also said its human resources division and labour unions met on Friday morning.
De Ruyter said the discussions had progressed well and were in a “constructive spirit”.
The most recent offer from Eskom was a 7% increase, up from the 5.3% the utility had initially proposed.
According to EWN, the unions were also focused on three other benefits that would be key to “moving forward”, namely:
- Bringing back double payment for overtime on weekends and while on standby.
- The return of transport and accommodation benefits when being moved to other power stations.
- A once-off cash payment to soften the effect of inflation on workers.