The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) went on strike on Wednesday at power utility Eskom’s Medupi coal-fired Power Plant in Lephalale, Limpopo.
The parastatal was forced to shut down the plant to ensure the safety of its assets and staff, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told local media fin24.
According to Phasiwe, the decision to close the plant was based on past experiences of protesters causing damage to property and harassing those individuals who were not taking part in the strike.
Eskom was to meet with members of the trade union yesterday afternoon to discuss the issues at hand.
Medupi workers’ demands
An estimated 21,000 workers joined the strike at Medupi Power Station to highlight pay and working conditions, Numsa said in a statement.
“Today’s action has resulted [in] the total closure of the Medupi Power Station, as a direct response by Eskom, to quell workers action. A memorandum of demands was submitted to Eskom by our members”, Numsa said.
“Numsa is convinced that the workers’ reasonable demands can be resolved by Eskom, without any undue disruption of work.”
Members are calling for completion bonuses to be extended beyond senior management.
In addition, they are asking for retrenchments of workers to be halted with immediate effect and asked Eskom to put an end to racialised evictions of workers from their subsidised accommodation.
Numsa added: “The failure by Eskom to respond to these genuine and legitimate demands of workers, will force the union to escalate its organisational muscle and power until these demands are met. We will be compelled to pull-out our members into a full blown action, including workers at Kusile Power Station, in Mpumalanga.”
Load shedding returns
The news of the strike preceded Eskom’s public announcement earlier on in the day on implementing stage 2 load shedding “due to a shortage of generation capacity as several units are currently out of service due to planned and unplanned outages”.