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Workers at SAfrica utility Eskom threaten strike

By on June 15, 2010

Up to 16,000 workers at South Africa’s power utility Eskom could go on strike by Thursday if their demands for an 18 percent wage hike are not met, a union spokesman said on Monday.

A strike during the first World Cup on the African continent could affect power supply during the soccer spectacle.

“The talks have already deadlocked but mediators asked us to come back with fresh heads tomorrow,” Lesiba Seshoka of the National Union of Mineworkers told Reuters.

Unless Eskom offered workers a pay rise which is more than three times the inflation rate and a housing allowance when parties resumed conciliation efforts on Tuesday, the NUM said workers would strike within 24 hours.

“NUM feels that there is no other delay but to give Eskom what it requires, that is strike action,” South Africa’s largest trade union, which represents about half the state owned enterprise’s staff, said in a statement.

Eskom sought a court order in May preventing the union from striking during the month-long soccer tournament.

Eskom employees are the latest to use the sporting event as a wage negotiation tool to push for above inflation salary increases that could in the long run undermine South Africa’s recovery from a sharp downturn.

Last week, unions representing more than a million workers in the public sector including police, nurses and medics also threatened industrial action during the tournament unless President Jacob Zuma’s government raise their salaries.


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