Striking Eskom workers who protested outside the utility’s New Germany offices on Thursday said the electricity supplier had until Friday to come back to the wage bargaining table or face “total shutdown” of power supply. Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu/ANA PICS
Durban - Striking Eskom workers who protested outside the utility’s New Germany offices on Thursday said the electricity supplier had until Friday to come back to the wage bargaining table or face “total shutdown” of power supply.

Their threats came as country-wide industrial action took its toll on the power systems last night when Eskom briefly instituted Stage 1 load shedding across the country.

The eThekwini Municipality put out alerts on its Facebook page that parts of Chatsworth, Shallcross, Newlands, Verulam and uMdloti would experience load shedding from 8pm to 10pm on Thursday night.

However, by around 9pm, Eskom sent its last power alert for the night stating it had stopped load shedding and that restoration of power might take longer in some areas. At the time of publication, the municipality had not updated that alert.

Eskom officials said their systems had become “constrained” as a result of industrial action, acts of sabotage and intimidation of workers who had been reporting for duty during protest action, some of which was also reported in KwaZulu-Natal.

Workers have been protesting across the country since earlier this week after a dispute over Eskom’s 0%wage increase offer.

Eskom’s deputy spokesperson, Dikatso Mothae, reported several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure. “As a result, all road coal deliveries have been stopped for security reasons. The safety of all our employees is of paramount importance to us during this time,” she said.

Meanwhile, about 500 disgruntled workers protested outside Eskom’s New Germany site yesterday, following similar protests at the utility’s Mkondeni site, in Pietermaritzburg, on Wednesday.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) are leading the action in KwaZulu-Natal.

Phakama Kheswa, a shop steward with Numsa, said workers were giving Eskom until today to come back with a more favourable wage increase offer.

Unions rejected Eskom’s wage offer of a 0% increase earlier this week. They said Eskom was in “serious financial trouble” with “huge debt” and that it had “wasted billions” through alleged mismanagement.

“It cannot be correct that we the workers have to carry this cost. If Eskom does not come back to us by tomorrow (today)with a better offer, we will go on a complete shutdown of all operations,” said Khwesa.

For a Durban Eskom worker who attended the protest, a 0% wage increase is not an option. The woman, who is the sole breadwinner of her family, said: “My family includes two children and two elderly members who are dependent on me for everything.

“VAT has gone up, petrol has gone up and it looks like it will rise again, there are school fees, food, all the needs in a home. So, no. Zero percent is not an option,” she said, asking not to be named.

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