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Eskom will keep lights on


Pickets are scheduled during lunchtime throughout the country where workers will demonstrate “their disgust with Eskom”

File image: IOL.

KIMBERLEY residents have been assured that there will not be an electricity blackout in the city tomorrow.

Rumours have been doing the rounds on social media and elsewhere that Eskom has warned of a huge strike due to start today “where all electricity will be switched off”.

“There will be no electricity anywhere,” the message states, warning people to make sure that their gas bottles are full, they have candles on hand, enough petrol in their cars, cash on hand because they will not be able to draw money from ATMs and food that won’t spoil.

While National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members initially called for a national shutdown of electricity, in protest against Eskom employees getting a 0% wage increase, the union yesterday announced that its members would protest tomorrow by holding lunchtime pickets.

NUM, together with the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa), said yesterday at a press conference that the two unions would demonstrate outside Megawatt Park as well as in different parts of the country during lunch.

Pickets are scheduled during lunchtime throughout the country where workers will demonstrate “their disgust with Eskom”.

Eskom meanwhile issued a statement yesterday to say that should industrial action take place, it would activate contingency measures to ensure security of power supply.

Eskom further warned employees that they are not allowed to participate in strike actions as they are considered essential service providers.

Municipal spokesperson, Thoko Riet, said yesterday that the Sol Plaatje Municipality had received communication from Eskom regarding the proposed industrial action.

“Eskom has guaranteed that it will not be a shutdown but industrial action. However, Eskom has confirmed that there are contingency plans in place should there be a strike.”

She added that as a precautionary measure, the municipality would also have its own municipal security officials on site at all local sub-stations.

In its statement, Eskom stated that it “sympathises with its over 47 000 employees who have worked very hard to help keep the lights on during the past financial year”.

“However, due to the difficult financial situation that the company currently faces, Eskom has decided to offer no salary increases this year,” it said in a statement yesterday morning.

“Eskom has noted the statements made by the trade unions about their intentions to embark on an industrial action this Thursday. Eskom has been designated as an essential service provider, and therefore our employees are reminded that they are not allowed to participate in strike actions,” the power utility said.

“In an effort to ensure security of power supply, Eskom will activate its contingency measures should the industrial action take place.

“Eskom will continue to provide regular updates about the state of the power system through various media platforms.”

The two unions are demanding 15% increases across the board, a housing allowance increase of
R2 000, the banning of labour brokers and the insourcing of workers such as cleaners and security guards.

They also want paid maternity leave for six months and paid paternity leave for one month.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, NUM and Numsa said they rejected Eskom’s wage offer of zero percent.

“Eskom management and the Eskom board demonstrated that they do not care about workers or their families. On the one hand the state has adopted an austerity budget that is attacking workers through VAT and fuel price increases, while on the other hand Eskom is denying workers their well-deserved wage increase. Workers at Eskom are facing an onslaught from all sides.”

The unions stated that they were left with no option but “to follow the law to the letter to declare a dispute of interest against Eskom management.

“We will exhaust all options available to us legally before resorting to go on strike.”

The unions added that tomorrow there would be a big demonstration taking place at Megawatt Park during lunchtime.

They also demanded an urgent meeting with the Eskom board, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe, in an attempt to resolve the current impasse between Eskom and the unions and give the workers their wage increase.