(Bloomberg) -- Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is offering workers a 7% wage increase, after the utility lost units during illegal protests that plunged South Africa into the worst blackouts since 2019, according to people familiar with the information.

The offer is for one year, said the people who asked not to be identified because the information is not public. Eskom said many workers have reported for duty at power stations after the company met with labor unions over the situation. The 7% raise is on a sliding scale with higher earners receiving slightly less, one of the people said. 

Eskom is unprofitable with 396 billion rand ($24.6 billion) of debt that it relies on government bailouts to service. It made an offer of as much as 5.3% before protests broke out and workers blocked roads to power stations. South African inflation rose to 6.5% in May, up from 5.9% in the previous month.

The utility’s constrained financial situation means Eskom would “have to find savings somewhere else” in order to make a higher offer, Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Labor groups are expected to present the revised offer to members before negotiations resume on Friday. The details of Eskom’s offer will be “made known” then, the company’s spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said in a text message.

Meanwhile the utility ramped up power cuts to so-called Stage 6 -- taking 6,000 megawatts off the grid -- on Tuesday in order to prevent a total collapse of the system. The same level is scheduled from 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

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