Eskom workers demand 12% salary hikes and other benefits as stage 8 load shedding looms

 ·24 May 2023

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has rejected Eskom’s revised salary hike of 4.5% – up from its original offer of 3.75%.

During ongoing negotiations, the union said Eskom has the money to properly compensate its workers, arguing that the recent 18.5% tariff hike granted by the National Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) could be one of the avenues through which the utility can do so.

Numsa has revised its wage increase demand from 15% to 12%.

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, a spokesperson for Numsa, told ENCA that Eskom had not engaged fully with the other demands on top of the salary increase.

On 19 April, Numsa joined the National Union of Metalworkers (NUM), and Solidarity demanded a 15% increase for Eskom employees.

The original demands on top of the now 12% wage increase include:

  • Housing allowance to be raised to R7,000, and employees to be allowed to buy houses anywhere in the country;
  • Medical aid to shift to 80% (20% contribution by employees);
  • Cellphone allowance of R1,000;
  • R1,500 electricity allowance;
  • Once-off R1,500 essential worker or danger allowance, as well as a separate voltage work allowance on a sliding scale;
  • Performance bonus set at 25% of annual salary;
  • R20,000 study benefit per child; and
  • R10,000 car allowance through Eskom’s so-called vehicle X-scheme.

Hlubi-Majola noted that the union does not want any of the power stations to be closed. However, Eskom must also address the worker’s demands for increased medical aid contributions and extended maternity leave.

“What they (Eskom) has basically proposed is a 0.5% increase, and this is not based on CPI; Eskom is not taking into account the impact of the cost of living on normal workers.”

Our members have been denied proper increases while their benefits and conditions have also been slashed, Eskom has also only 8% of its operational costs on its workers, and Eskom has the money to meet the union’s demands, said Hlubi-Majola.

Recent insight from Allan Gray has shown that employee costs have not had the dire financial cost on the company as many think. In 2022, the company spent R35 billion on staff – a 20-year low when expressed as a percentage of revenue.

According to Allan Gray, over a span of 20 years, the employee count has shown a modest growth rate of 1% per year. However, the average salary per employee has experienced a significantly higher annual growth rate of nearly 9%, surpassing the inflation rate of 5.6%.

Stage 8 load shedding

The wage negotiations between Eskom and its workers comes at an incredibly sensitive time as the grid remains under severe pressure and the country continues to sit in a near-permanent state of load shedding.

The last time Eskom hit a wall with wage negotiations – almost one year ago – workers ended up going on an unlawful strike, which resulted in the country moving to stage 5 and stage 6 load shedding for the first time in years.

Eskom workers are essential workers and are thus blocked from striking. The 2022 strike action was unsanctioned and unlawful and came with reports of sabotage at power stations, intimidation of employees and other illegal activity.

While the escalation of load shedding over the last year cannot be pinned on the strike action, data shows that the month it took place was a significant turning point for the intensity of the outages. On the face of it, it appears that the grid never fully recovered and almost every single month since has seen outages intensify.


With load shedding now commonly sitting at higher levels (stages 4 to 6) and demand expected to ramp up in the coming months, Eskom has warned that stage 8 load shedding is increasingly likely.

The group wants to implement several mitigation measures to counter this, but if any prove ineffective, record load shedding is all but guaranteed. This is the case even without the possibility of unsanctioned strike action.

If wage negotiations break down to the point that Eskom workers once again embark on unsanctioned strike action, the situation risks becoming critically worse, and load shedding could intensify even further as it did in 2022.

Read: Higher stages of load shedding to stick around – here’s the latest schedule

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