Unions say Eskom is seeking interdict to stop strike

Eskom's Arnot power station (Susan Comrie/M&G)

Eskom's Arnot power station (Susan Comrie/M&G)

Power utility Eskom is seeking a court interdict to stop a strike by employees, according to National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) President Andrew Chirwa.

Eskom, meanwhile, said at 12:00 on Thursday that there had been “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,” it said in a statement.

It added that its network was “constrained today due to the acts of sabotage and intimidation”.

Chirwa was addressing workers at a lunchtime picket of Eskom’s Megawatt Park headquarters in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.

He warned that the picket was a “warning bullet” and said that if Eskom continued only offer workers 0% wage increases, they would shut down “all the lights in the country”.

READ MORE: Eskom power stations facing blockages as workers picket

Chirwa added that Eskom was spending R34-billion on the Independent Power Producers (IPP) despite the country having an energy surplus.

“These IPP’s are the same as Gupta corruption but they are not Indian corruption ... this is White Monopoly Capital.”

“There is no New Dawn ... it’s a new dawn of 0% increase, that wants to sell Eskom,” Chirwa told crowds of cheering workers.

Keeping the lights on

Earlier on Thursday, the power utility’s spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said Eskom’s ability to keep the lights on could be compromised with intimidation and road blockages “rife” at a number of power stations and regional offices.

Phasiwe also tweeted that the power supply to Eskom’s head office in Sunninghill had “mysteriously” been cut off.

Six power stations rely on local coal supply, and these will be the most affected by the delivery stoppages.

Disgruntled workers belonging to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Numsa are expected to hand over a memorandum to the parastatal’s management demanding 15% wage increases.

The cash-strapped power utility has offered 0% wage hikes for the financial year.

The parastatal’s management team is holding an emergency meeting on Thursday morning to address the possibility of load shedding.

Phasiwe promised to provide regular updates on various media platforms. A placard circulating on social media warned workers against reporting for duty at Eskom during the one-day strike saying that people would be “subjecting” themselves to risk.

However, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi distanced the labour organisation from the threatening poster.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu, meanwhile, said police on Wednesday night fired rubber bullets to disperse workers who were gathered outside the power stations in Kendal, Thuthuka, Hendrina and Arnot.

“The police are intimidating the workers, in what is an attempt to prevent the picket, one employee was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet outside Arnot power station.”

“The workers will be joining the picket despite the threats. They are determined to make our voices heard,” he said.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said that contingency plans were in place to keep the lights on during the one-day strike but cautioned there were no guarantees the power utility would be able to do this.

Labour federation the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) leaders met Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday afternoon, and they said he promised to call Eskom’s negotiators back to the table and up their offer, in order to avert a full-blown strike. — News 24

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