As reports and speculation about Eskom's new wage offer to unions were in full swing, the power utility confirmed that employees were returning to work at various stations and other operations on Wednesday morning.
After a week of protest disruptions due to a wage negotiation deadlock, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan announced on Tuesday afternoon that Eskom employees would return to work. While Gordhan said in his briefing that an agreement was reached on the wage settlement, details of the offer are still not public, and are expected to be formally tabled on Friday.
The protests escalated from obstructing access to Eskom stations for working employees to intimidation and attacks on their homes and vehicles. This left vital maintenance work undone, 10 units down, and plunged South Africa into Stage 6 load shedding.
Labour and Eskom will return to the Central Bargaining Forum to consider a new wage offer on Friday. As staff returned to work, Eyewitness News reported that Eskom made a 7% offer to unions.
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha would not confirm these reports but said that workers were returning to work on Wednesday morning.
"I can confirm that many employees are peacefully returning to work and that there are no incidents of protest so far today. The details of any wage offer will be made known on Friday when the wage negotiations resume," said Mantshantsha.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) secretary-general William Mabapa told Fin24 that an offer from Eskom would be considered on Friday but that the details of the offer were not disclosed.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said she would not confirm the offer. Solidarity deputy secretary-general for public sector Helgard Cronje said the union did not know enough to confirm or deny the offer and would look to confirm this with Eskom.
If true, the 7% wage offer would be an upward adjustment from Eskom's previous offer of 5%. NUM adjusted its demand to range between 8% and 10%, Numsa revised its demand to 12%, and Solidarity is demanding 5.9%.