City Power gets tough with workers

090913. City Power Head Office in Booysens, Johannesburg. City Power Managing Director Sicelo Xulu, Gauteng MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services for the City of Joburg Matshidiso Mfikoe and Chairperson of City Power Board Reverend Frank Chikane during the media briefing following the unprotected mass action resulted in residents, in various suburbs across Johannesburg being left without electricity. City Power has accused the striking workers of sabotage claiming they deliberately switched off the power. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko.

090913. City Power Head Office in Booysens, Johannesburg. City Power Managing Director Sicelo Xulu, Gauteng MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services for the City of Joburg Matshidiso Mfikoe and Chairperson of City Power Board Reverend Frank Chikane during the media briefing following the unprotected mass action resulted in residents, in various suburbs across Johannesburg being left without electricity. City Power has accused the striking workers of sabotage claiming they deliberately switched off the power. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko.

Published Sep 10, 2013

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Johannesburg - City Power will not be held to ransom or intimidated into changing its planned shift changes, despite last week’s “acts of sabotage”, a mayoral official said on Monday.

In addition, security will be tightened at all 10 substations, and the SAPS and SANDF will maintain security at four national key points where electricity from Eskom is fed into the city’s grid.

Another measure will see the process of staff recruitment tightened up to eliminate “bad elements” - such as those who sabotaged Johannesburg’s power system last week.

The steps were revealed by City of Joburg member of the mayoral committee Matshidiso Mfikoe when she announced that the wildcat strike was over, that power had been restored to all parts of the city and that all workers were back at work.

According to Mfikoe, one person allegedly involved in last week’s shutdown has resigned and more resignations are expected.

Mfikoe said this would not stop the entity from pursuing those responsible for the deliberate power cuts.

“Even though they have resigned, they will still be held accountable for their actions, which endangered the lives of people,” she said, adding that because City Power was a national key point in terms of the 1980 Key Points Act, last week’s sabotage was all the more serious.

Mfikoe said City Power was able to institute its emergency preparation plan, which saw

10 command centres being set up at the depots and City Power executive committee board members manning and visiting the stations three times a day.

This would continue until the situation had been stabilised.

According to City Power managing director Sicelo Xulu, the substations were sabotaged by skilled electricians who knew exactly what they were doing.

“All substations have gas alarms which trigger and release gas when activated illegally, but these people knew exactly how to turn the alarms off as they had keys and access control,” he said.

A new log-in system has now been implemented whereby anyone entering a substation has to report to security to record their details.

Regarding a new shift system, Xulu said they were still speaking to staff but would not cancel the new system.

“These discussions have been going on for over a year and there was an agreement reached with the unions. Some staff members were earning salaries for 24-hour shifts - three times their normal salary - and which is not allowed in terms of safety regulations anyway.

“Also, other people have to be given an opportunity to fill the positions for which we have a budget. We have now hired an additional 18 people,” Xulu said.

The chairman of the City Power board, Reverend Frank Chikane, said the management team had conducted a comprehensive analysis of the internal environment aimed at identifying factors affecting the utility’s performance last year.

“The analysis found that there were many vacant positions that could not be filled due to the budgetary constraints as a consequence of excessive overtime. It was also clear that there were a number of areas where the company was acting outside its policies,” he said.

A review of all categories of allowances was undertaken.

“The board resolved to reduce the abnormally high number of overtime hours worked in certain environments by moving to shift work.

It is also our intention to shift the overtime budget towards filling vacancies and to create additional full-time employment,” said Chikane.

In terms of this new productivity policy, the board had also, for the first time, decided not to pay performance bonuses to staff last year because targets were not reached.

“Xulu and his management team have clamped down on non-performance, unnecessary expenditure and abuse of the utility’s reward policy. We want to create a culture change with zero tolerance for poor performance and complacency,” said Chikane.

The Star

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