Members of the biggest union at South African power utility Eskom were divided on Tuesday over a new, higher wage offer from the company, aimed at averting a damaging strike during the soccer World Cup.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the union's council, comprising workers' representatives at Eskom, had failed to reach agreement over whether to accept the raised offer.
The union was still locked in a meeting late on Tuesday, initially convened to discuss a process that could have led to a strike if Eskom failed to improve its wage terms.
"The discussions are still continuing ... some people feel (the new offer) should be totally rejected, while some feel it should be given an opportunity," Seshoka told Reuters.
Eskom refused to make public the terms of the new offer but said it expected to sign a deal with the unions in the coming days.
Any power disruption could harm manufacturing and mining companies in the world's top platinum and fourth-largest gold producer and force them to curtail operations, potentially pushing up precious metals prices.
A strike during the World Cup, which South Africa is hosting until July 11, would probably not affect stadiums, as they have standby generators, but could anger millions of people hoping to watch the games on television.
"THINGS LOOKING GOOD"
Eskom human resources managing director Bhabhalazi Bulunga said a deal with the unions was now imminent.
"We are giving ourselves time, maybe up to Friday, but things are looking very good," Bulunga said, adding he expected further progress by the end of the day.
"We are hoping for a solution soon, I think we will find each other at some point," he said.
Analysts regard the threat of a strike as a union negotiating ploy to put pressure on Eskom to make greater wage and benefit concessions, and do not expect the labour action to go ahead.
The NUM and the other unions at Eskom, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity, said last Friday they were not planning an imminent strike..
Seshoka earlier said the NUM, representing about half of the 32,000 workers at the utility, could give Eskom a 48-hour ultimatum if its council agreed on starting a process that could lead to a vote for a strike. Seshoka said the NUM expected Numsa and Solidarity to join in any such action.
The NUM said it had been granted a certificate of non-resolution of the wage dispute with Eskom, which under the country's laws allows the union to start a strike if its members agree. But Eskom said such an action would be illegal because it would threaten an essential service.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 29 Haziran 2010, 22:38