ESKOM workers represented by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) are likely to demand a basic salary increase of 29 percent – if shop stewards at the union’s national bargaining conference this week do not revise the demand.

This emerged yesterday during the first day of the conference in Pretoria.

Numsa’s intended wage demand means it will not be smooth sailing during this year’s wage talks.

The power utility is offering an increase of 6.3 percent in the total cost to company, which is roughly in line with increases in previous years.

A 29 percent wage increase would run the risk of adding to Eskom’s already overburdened balance sheet because it has to invest heavily in new power generation capacity.

Eskom came under renewed criticism last week when it began load shedding, cutting the power supply to homes and businesses across the country. The energy parastatal has given a number of reasons for the power cuts, ranging from wet coal to a heavy maintenance schedule and delays on the Medupi plant.

Solidarity, which represents some Eskom workers, is understood to want a 12 percent raise.

Winnie Ramaube, a Numsa shop steward at Evraz Highveld Steel & Vanadium, said her constituency was demanding an increase from an average salary of R6 400 to R10 000.

In addition, Highveld Steel workers were demanding that medical aid be paid in full by the company, that hourly paid workers be paid monthly and that a full-time health and safety officer be appointed.

They also wanted a housing allowance equal to that of artisans (R3 500 a month across the board) and a night shift pay increase of 27 percent.

Engineers represented by Numsa would demand an increase of up to 20 percent across the board. The engineers would also propose a R1 200 production bonus or a monthly bonus of 10 percent of salary for each worker.

Additional demands could include a housing allowance of between R500 and R3 000 a month, a transport allowance of R700 a month or free transport for workers on shifts finishing or starting at 11pm.

Additional demands by Eskom employees at this week’s conference include improving medical aid benefits so that the utility covers 80 percent of the cost, an essential service allowance of R1 000, a housing allowance increase from R2 000 a month to R5 000, a transport allowance or subsidy of R300 a month and a standby allowance for non-permanent workers of R120 a month.

The union wants free solar geysers, a R600 electricity allowance and a performance bonus of 25 percent. It also wants 20 days’ family responsibility leave a year, six months’ fully paid maternity leave and 10 days’ paternity leave a year and a retirement age of 60.

The national bargaining conference will end tomorrow.