Eskom can’t assure lights will be kept on as workers embark on illegal industrial action
Power utility Eskom says it cannot guarantee a secure electricity supply as workers embark on illegal industrial action and planned lunchtime pickets this week.
Wage negotiations between the financially distressed company and labour unions deadlocked last week‚ resulting in a dispute declaration and the rolling out of mass action by the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA.
Despite the unions vowing they would not embark on an illegal strike‚ Eskom said on Wednesday that there had been disruptions at several power stations‚ affecting some units‚ while coal could not be delivered at some operations.
Unions are demanding between 9% and 15% wage hikes for Eskom staffers‚ however‚ management has made a 0% offer citing financial constraints as it struggles to turn the ailing‚ over-indebted company around.
Eskom acting GE for Risk and Sustainability Thava Govender told reporters at a briefing in Johannesburg that protesters had prevented employees from entering power stations in Mpumalanga‚ barricading entrances and threatening workers who reported for duty.
“We were short on operating staff and maintenance staff‚” he said.
On Tuesday Eskom issued a statement assuring that the lights would be kept on amid the labour instability.
But this is no longer the case‚ with CE Phakamani Hadebe saying if workers fail to keep to prescribed processes‚ supply will be affected.
He said the company was relying on its emergency response command and the SA Police Service to keep the peace on Thursday when Num and Numsa members will be taking part in countrywide lunch-time pickets.
Eskom employees are considered as essential service and cannot take part in a lawful strike.
Hadebe said he hoped an independent facilitator appointed by the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration would be able to lead the parties to an amicable solution in the interest of the country.