2 July 2014

South Africa: Numsa Threatens 'Total Blackout'

South Africa could face a complete blackout, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) warned on Wednesday in response to a court interdict against a strike at Eskom.

The union would embark on an unprotected strike if Eskom did not meet its demand of at least a double-digit increase, Numsa head of collective bargaining Stephen Nhlapo said during a protest outside the power utility's Megawatt Park headquarters in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.

The power utility has obtained a court interdict to prevent its workers from striking because it is designated an essential service provider.

Nhlapo said the union would not be intimidated if Eskom threatened mass dismissals.

"There is not going to be load-shedding. It will be total blackout."

The interdict interfered with workers' constitutionally-enshrined right to strike, he said.

One lane of Maxwell Drive, outside Megawatt Park, was blocked as Numsa members sat in the road, singing and clapping, as metro police kept watch.

Numsa is demanding a single-year wage deal with a 12 percent increase and R1000 housing allowance.

Nhlapo said the purpose of the picket was to pressure Eskom to negotiate in good faith.

Eskom has reportedly offered 5.6 percent, but declined to confirm this, saying the wage negotiations were confidential.

Asked to comment on the potential effect of an Eskom strike on the economy, Nhlapo said there was no economy without workers.

"The economy has been collapsing without us going on strike. You can't blame it on workers.

"If workers don't have buying power, the economy will collapse."

He dismissed Eskom's present offer as a "wage cut", saying it was below inflation.

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