Cape Town - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) claims Eskom was using workers as an excuse for Stage 6 load shedding, while it was shutting down units in power stations around the country.
This after the power utility announced on Thursday that they will extend Stage 6 power cuts until midnight on Friday, owing to illegal industrial action and intimidation.
According to Eskom’s spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha, high levels of staff absenteeism continues and employees who have decided to report for duty were working under “extremely challenging conditions due to threats”.
“This has made it difficult to conduct routine maintenance and other operational requirements, which will further impact the reliability of generation units. Due to the unlawful and unprotected strike, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom’s power plants, Eskom is still unable to return some generators to service,” said Mantshantsha.
He said the power utility was compelled to take unprecedented steps, to conserve emergency generation capacity to safeguard the power system.
“There remains a risk that the stage of load shedding may have to change at any time, depending on the state of the plant. Eskom also requests all union members to abide by the call from union leadership to return to work immediately. The unlawful strike has a serious detrimental impact not only on Eskom, but also on the broader South African public and economy,” said Mantshantsha.
Workers embarked on a wildcat strike since June 22, however, on Tuesday, the unions – including National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) – met with Eskom management and it was agreed that workers will return to work on Wednesday, ahead of wage negotiations at the Central Bargaining Forum (CBF) on Friday.
NUM national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu on Thursday said workers cannot be blamed for the Eskom crisis.
“At Komati Power Station, Eskom has shut down eight units out of nine. A total of 1 200MW was lost from the grid. In Hendrina Power Station, Eskom has shut down two units that led to 480MW being lost from the grid. In total, 2000MW have been lost from the grid, after the shutting down of those units from the two power stations,” said Mammburu.
According to Mammburu, while they condemned any acts of intimidation or violence, their leaders on the ground have not received such reports against their members.