Employees barred from Medupi

Eskom says the lockout is a result of yesterday’s action which was illegal.

FILE: Contract workers downed tools yesterday in a one-day strike. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) says workers at the Medupi Power Station have been barred from entering the premises and much of the construction site is now closed.

Contract workers downed tools yesterday in a one-day strike over transfers to hostel accommodation, allowances being cut and the refusal of Eskom to pay a bonus for Unit Six coming online.

While they planned to return to work this morning, many can't gain access to the site.

Numsa's Steve Nhlapo says workers have been caught off-guard by the lockout.

"Workers are still prepared to go back to work until they get answers from Eskom. They wanted to work until they have answers, they wanted negotiations to be open, but clearly this is a provocation of workers."

But Eskom's Khulu Phasiwe says the lockout is a result of yesterday's action which was illegal.

"If you are not there, you need to come and account as to why you were not there. Which is what is happening now. There is nothing untowards and nothing unusual. So those people who were not here yesterday or had participated in the illegal march, will have to account for that."

Earlier this morning, Eskom had said it expected work to resume at the station.

Phasiwe said unions have a responsibility to ensure work continues.

"It really is up to the unions as to whether they will be coming back today but from our side we're expecting them to come in today. We met with them on Wednesday and will continue to do so. None of the people who were on strike are actually Eskom employees; they're all actually working for contractors."

But Nhlapo, said the issue is about Eskom executives getting rewarded while workers do not.

"Parliament in celebrating, government is celebrating that there's 200 megawatts on the grid. Workers have to sacrifice their time, working overtime and what they get is retrenchment."