Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 12 May 2011 – Construction at South African national power utility Eskom Holdings Limited’s Medupi and Kusile power plants remains on hold following protest action by contract workers at the two operations.

Eskom spokeswoman Hillary Joffe told I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE that this was a concern. “However, we are putting plans into place to catch up if we lose any time,” she said.

Asked when the sites would be re-opened, she replied that Eskom could not speculate about that “as we are negotiating with everyone to make sure the labourers’ disputes are resolved.”

Joffe added that the sites would be opened once the safety of workers could be guaranteed. “The safety issue is paramount for us, and we don’t want everyone coming back to work if we feel it’s not safe.”

The workers at both the Medupi and Kusile sites are contract workers not directly employed by Eskom.

“At Kusile, (at Kendal, near Witbank), we have the Kusile Civil Works joint venture, made up of Group Five, WBHO and Stefanutti. At Medupi (at Lephalale in Limpopo) it is Murray & Roberts and Hitachi who are the contractors.”

“More damage was caused at Kusile when the workers targeted assets belonging to the contractors, Joffe said. “Pre-fabricated offices and vehicles were damaged there, as well as a mobile crane. At Medupi it was mainly cars that were targeted by protesters.”

Workers were sent home late on Friday from the Kusile site and on Tuesday morning from the Medupi site, following protests.

Joffe said that Eskom’s projects had suffered no damage, but added that his did not prevent investors from becoming worried.

“The issue is clearly more pressing for Medupi, given that it is essential that it comes online at the end of 2012, before the key load-shedding and maintenance risk period at the start of 2013,” she added.