In May 2004, the International Chemical, Energy (ICEM) global trade union, organised a meeting of African unions within Eskom in Johannesburg . Most of the unions coming from outside of Africa highlighted problems with Eskom’s operations and labour practices. They informed the gathering that:
Eskom had no good relations with unions
the South African utility was preparing their electricity parastatals for privatisation
working conditions in Eskom-acquired companies were bad
instead of using “good labour relations practices” that the company complies with in South Africa , Eskom relies on the host country’s national laws which provide far less benefits than those enjoyed here.
In Malawi , the union reported that Eskom fired their union president although his case is still being challenged in court. Subsequent to that, the government deregistered the union and Eskom used that opportunity to cancel union stop-orders. The union has won against the government on deregistration but Eskom has not yet reinstated the union stop-orders. A rival union has been formed called Eskom Employees’ Union and the Malawi comrades strongly suspect that Eskom has a hand in its formation. Eskom in Malawi is managed by South Africans managers.
In Uganda , Eskom took over the generation division which they will run over 20 years. They immediately reduced the workforce from 286 to 86. The union also complains of exploitative working conditions. Although it was initially agreed that Eskom will employ locals, the South African utility uses expatriates. The Ugandan union informed the meeting that Ugandan managers are not properly paid and so they don’t stay for long in their positions.