Home South African Glimmer of hope for Eskom

Glimmer of hope for Eskom

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While striking Eskom workers are expected to return to work, parties to the dispute have yet to reach an agreement, with negotiations headed to the Central Bargaining Forum on Friday.

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WHILE striking Eskom workers are expected to return to work, parties to the dispute that was blamed for Tuesday’s Stage 6 blackout have yet to reach an agreement, with negotiations headed to the Central Bargaining Forum (CBF) on Friday.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said there was no agreement over the pay rise across the board and a new offer was expected to be tabled at the CBF.

The country was plunged into Stage 6 load shedding on Tuesday which Eskom attributed to the strike after failed wage negotiations between Eskom and unions.

This brought production at Eskom plants to a halt through alleged intimidation of employees who were unable to show up to work as a result.

In a joint statement, the unions said: “Given the fact that Eskom has finally agreed to return to the negotiating table and there is a new offer which will be formally presented on Friday in the CBF, NUM and Numsa leadership are calling on our members at Eskom to give the process of negotiations a chance. This includes a consultation process with workers themselves on the new offer that is a product of negotiations between the two unions and Eskom over the past two days to unlock the current deadlock.”

The unions have urged workers at Eskom to normalise the situation given the developments.

“We are calling on our members to give this process and the CBF meeting on Friday the necessary chance to settle the current dispute,” they said.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan told a media briefing on Tuesday that the country was experiencing Stage 6 due to the illegal industrial action.

“This industrial action worsened the situation in terms of the production of electricity by Eskom. This doesn’t mean that the whole country gets into a blackout. The industrial action meant that in many many power stations up to 90% of the staff could not attend to the duties at the power stations.

“Damages were suffered as a result of petrol bombs and other incendiary devices being thrown at the homes of managers at their cars, and in the power station itself. This intimidation is completely unacceptable and it is primarily responsible for the country being where it is,” said Gordhan.

Police at the highest level have been made aware of the challenges Eskom is facing, he said.

“There is going to be a meeting with the security cluster in this regard and review the kind of assistance Eskom requires.”

Eskom group executive for generation, Rhulani Mathebula said the units lost overnight included three at Medupi, three at Tutuka, one each at Kriel, Kusile, Kendal and Duvha, which represents a massive 6,000 MW capacity loss.

Stellenbosch University Energy expert Professor Sampson Mamphweli said Eskom could have been forced to introduce Stage 8 load shedding if the strike action continued for the next two days.

“The situation is bad and it was made worse by the industrial action because it came at a time that the system was heavily constrained with more than 14,000 MW offline due to breakdowns and about 3,600 MW then went off due to the strike. The challenge is that the people on the strike disrupt operations and most of them are the ones involved in operations, so various systems can’t be operated without them,” he said.

Mamphweli said Eskom was not in a good financial position to bow to the initial 15% pay rise.

“Eskom currently has a huge debt to pay because of Medupi and Kusile escalated costs, the profit that Eskom makes goes to servicing this debt. At the same time they have a lot of breakdowns that are taking a lot of money on maintenance while they also have to implement measures to ensure environmental compliance in several power stations. Their revenue collection is also not very good because municipalities also owe them in excess of R30 billion,” he said.

Another Energy economist, Lungile Mashele, said while it was partially true that Eskom was reaping the results of a number of decisions, including defects in plants, sabotage and decisions taken by previous Eskom management, De Ruyter had been at the helm now for over two years and it was not clear what he had done to solve the problems.

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