The Lethabo Power Station outside Johannesburg is operated by Eskom, which is battling to keep the lights on. Photo: New York Times
JOHANNESBURG - Eskom yesterday said acts of intimidation and sabotage at its power stations continued, leaving the national grid under severe pressure, which will lead to load-shedding.

The utility said that coal stock levels at six of its power stations remained low, as striking employees prevented deliveries.

“We are worried that these acts of intimidation that we are seeing are likely to put those power stations under severe pressure,” said Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe.

Eskom workers have refused to sign a wage offer of demanding bonuses. The utility has offered 7percent for each of three years, a 13th cheque and overtime allowance.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) yesterday said the bonus demand was a deal breaker.

“If Eskom can pay workers the bonuses due to them, the proposed wage agreement will definitely be signed.” NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said.

On Monday, Eskom announced a handful of its power generating units, including two at Matla power station, one at Koeberg and Arnot, were currently off-line and that a conveyor belt was cut at Matla in what management believed was an act of sabotage.

Phasiwe said the cash-strapped utility had bent over backwards to accommodate its employees, adding that paying bonuses would plunge the company into a deeper financial crisis. He said the utility did not have money for bonuses.

Phasiwe said the information was shared with union bosses last week by opening their books to them.

“Clearly, Eskom has been generous, given the situation we are facing at this moment. We have bent over backwards to accommodate our employees, who we believe have worked very hard.”

Mammburu said claims that their members had attacked power stations was an Eskom ploy to garner public sympathy.

“If they say their members are not involved in all these activities, then they must come out in the open and distance themselves from it. Or, still, go to our power stations and see what’s happening on the ground,” said Phasiwe.

Eskom and unions are expected to meet again on Friday. Solidarity chief negotiator Tommy Wedderspoon said Eskom has approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for a solution to the strike.

“Eskom wants the CCMA to intervene in this matter with the view to resolve it,” Wedderspoon said.