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Numsa strike to hit Eskom

Delays at Eskom’s new power plants have been solved but Numsa workers are now preparing to down tools.

Eskom's Medupi power station in Limpopo. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Just hours after government announced that progress is finally being made in the completion of the Medupi and Kusile power stations, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is warning its looming strike next month will disrupt the projects further.

The Department of Public Enterprises today announced that persistent construction delays have been resolved and the Medupi power station is now on track to come online and boost South Africa's electricity grid by the end of the year.

"[These] will not only alleviate the pressure on the power system but will also support government's economic growth and developmental objectives," said Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.

However, Numsa is threatening a massive strike involving over 200,000 members from 1 July, with many of them involved in the Eskom projects.

"Numsa is finally ready to take to the street and withdraw its labour at an unprecedented level," said General Secretary Irvin Jim, speaking during a media briefing today at the union's headquarters in Newtown, Johannesburg.

The union is demanding a 15 percent wage hike for its members but Eskom is only offering 4.3 percent, below the rate of inflation.

Jim said the union's lowest-paid members working at Medupi and Kusile earn just over R3,000 a month and the wage hike would improve their salaries by R450.

"How can this be construed as an outrageous demand?" he asked.

'BOSSES ARE TO BLAME'

Jim said if the strike goes ahead next month, the union will not be the one to blame for further delays in the construction projects but rather, the "employers in the metals and engineering industry will have to take full responsibility for the repercussions."

Numsa says a strike has now become inevitable and cannot be accountable for the subsequent effects on the already fragile economy.

The economy experienced its first contraction since 2009 in the first quarter of this year, which has been largely blamed on the prolonged strike in the platinum mining sector.

Some economists have warned that any further delays in bringing the longest and costliest strike in South Africa's mining history to an end could push the country into a full recession, while a new strike as large as Numsa's would only make matters worse.

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