Johannesburg – South Africa’s electricity provider Eskom on Tuesday agreed to a pay rise for its workers, it said, after a strike sparked the toughest power rationing in the country in over two years.
Workers left coal power plants unmanned last month in Africa’s leading industrialised country, forcing the power utility firm to increase scheduled blackouts last week to ration output, in what is known locally as load shedding.
Eskom in a statement said it and three leading labour unions signed an agreement that marked the end of “damaging, disruptive and costly wage disputes”, and urged all employees “to return to their workstations immediately”.
Workers had demanded a double-digit wage increase, but settled instead for a seven-percent pay rise and additional housing allowances – added costs that Eskom said it would struggle to afford.
The power utility, which generates more than 90% of the country’s energy, is plagued by a history of alleged mismanagement and millions of dollars in debt.
Its ageing coal plants and infrastructure are also beleaguered by breakdowns.
Last week it was forced to ramp up power rationing to consumers to so-called Stage-6 load shedding to prevent a countrywide blackout.
This meant South Africans experienced multiple cuts a day, each lasting between two and four hours, on a rotational basis.
While employees are now expected back at work, Eskom has however warned “the system will still take some time to recover” due to a maintenance backlog.