REDS irk Eskom workers

Government plans to chop up electricity into three different parts – distribution, transmission and generation – are giving workers problems.

Under this scheme the distribution of electricity will be done by regional electricity distributors (REDs). Workers employed in this part of Eskom, almost half of the 29000 workers, will be handed over to the RED in their region.

Under Eskom’s current conditions of service, a gratuity is paid to each and every worker when they retire, are retrenched, or, if they die before retirement, to their spouse.

However, the rules of the gratuity payment say that if workers retire or are retrenched before the age of 55, then they are penalised – their gratuity is reduced.

Now workers are saying that it is not fair to make them pay the penalties.

“If they pay us now,” says Numsa Eskom full-time shop steward, Phutase Tseki , “we are on a low grade but three to four years down the line we could be on a very high grade. Eskom will be saving a lot of money because it is paying us the gratuity on our current grades. So they must take out those penalties.”

The unions are still in dispute with Eskom on this.

Other disputes still not resolved are:

subsidisation of transport. Eskom wants to scrap the subsidised transport that it provides to 20 to 30 000 workers in the bargaining unit excluding the managers. Unions are demanding a once off payment to sweeten the loss of the benefit.
hostels. Many years ago, unions demanded that single quarter hostels be converted to family accommodation. A compromise was reached whereby residents were given a once off cash payment of R32 000 to vacate the hostel and to find themselves alternative accommodation. Eskom then demolished them.

However, some hostels slipped through the net. Unions are now demanding a cash payment of R50 000 for those still resident and that the remaining single quarter hostels be retained for apprentices and trainees.

Meanwhile, Numsa still remains outside of the Minimum Service Agreement, the agreement that forces 10% of Eskom workers to maintain essential services during a strike. Numsa objected to this agreement and demanded that instead Eskom clearly define which categories of workers, like turbine operators, the 10% referred to. “10% is too vague,” says Eskom sector co-ordinator, Bafana Ndebele.