The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Tuesday that it was not satisfied with State-owned power utility Eskom's revised conditional offer.
The utility had tabled a new offer during a meeting with unions at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday evening.
The utility's new offer comprises three elements including; an 8% across-the-board increase on basic salary up from an original 5,5% offer, a 5,6% increase to key allowances, and a R12 000 one-off ex-gratia payment for each employee, which would be paid in two equal instalments in July 2010 and July 2011.
Eskom'human resources head Bhabhalazi Bulunga said that the ex-gratia payment was designed to facilitate the transition to a total cost to company pay structure, which would include a housing benefit and the introduction of a defined contribution pension scheme as an option for existing employees.
"This is a very reasonable offer for our over 30 000 employees in the bargaining unit," said Bulunga.
However, NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said that the workers were demanding a 9% across-the-board wage increase, and a minimum a R4 000 a month for housing allowances.
Seshoka did note that the unions were still prepared to negotiate with the utility, and hoped that they would bring a "solution" to the table. "The unions have recommitted to the negotiations and we do not want Eskom to take us for granted and to come forward with a decent offer."
Meanwhile, Bulunga pointed out that the 8% wage increase is well above South Africa's inflation rate, which is currently below 5%.
"That is very generous in today's economic climate, and it comes on top of the other benefits our workers already enjoy. The Eskom minimum basic salary, at R76 770 a year, is well above average. Independent surveys have shown that all of our bargaining unit employees earn above-average salaries. Our leave and other benefits, including family responsibility leave and maternity benefits, compare very favourably with the market average.
"Our salary packages already include a number of allowances and subsidies. In addition to these benefits, every Eskom employee in the bargaining unit receives a 13th cheque every November and will also share in a R1-billion bonus pool in July 2010," said Bulunga.
However, Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans said that the "big issue" on the table was really the housing allowances requested by workers. He explained that housing was often very expensive in areas located close to the power stations, and that workers were forced to leave Eskom because of insufficient housing arrangements.
Kleynhans said that the unions had been discussing the matter with the utility for the past two years, but noted that to date no real offer has been put on the table.