The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and other trade unions have signed to terminate the minimum service agreement with ESKOM utility company effective from 1st April 2004. The minimum service agreement prohibited workers who are engaged in essential service areas from participation in a strike. As a direct result 15 000 workers engaged in generation, transmission and distribution of power were precluded from participating in any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of industrial action against the employer. At the same time, as part of the 2004 wage negotiations NUMSA declared a dispute with the company on the following issues:
q Performance bonus must be shared equally between directors and workers.
q Reject 2,3% penalty imposed on service gratuity paid to workers.
q Unilateral change of working conditions and policies.
q Allowance for HIV/AIDS peer educators.
q Retain transport for all workers.
We have reviewed the service agreement and considered that it impacted on workers rights to strike. Despite the fact that the dispute may still be referred to arbitration and Essential Service Committee for discussions and possible outcomes. To a large extent, we hope that the termination of the agreement will ameliorate the effects of the right to strike. The termination will no longer bind workers at ESKOM. The termination of the agreement comes at the right time when we have a major dispute with the company. The minimum service agreement undermined the collective efforts of workers to act aggressively.
The current dispute is important in relation to the company failing to be transparent, honest and objective in the implementation of the policies. The problem is that the company is addressing issues subterranean. The negotiations remain sombre, there is a great possibility for industrial action this year. Any change of working conditions cannot be tolerated and it should not be the prerogative of management to decide on issues that affect workers directly. Unilateral variation of conditions is a sin in the labour law.
The issue of performance bonus has been under dispute for two years without any constructive solutions on the part of the company. More and more we find the company actions outrageously repulsive. It is indignant that directors should receive lavish performance bonuses and workers are just rewarded with crumbs. Late last year company executives received millions of rands on performance bonus. The Chief Executive Officer alone received a whooping R5 million on bonus scheme.
The Eskom pay policy has been severely abused by managers and it has led to serious disproportinalities and dislocations of the company. The fundamental error of the company is to ignore and down play all the union efforts to improve the circumstances of workers. It is our view that the ESKOM management is selfish and limiting development in the company.
For further information please contact Dumisa Ntuli -@ (011) 689 1700 or 0829737282)