Medupi workers still on ‘unprotected strike’

More than 12,000 workers are demanding better living conditions in hostels and bonuses.

FILE: Medupi power station. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom says about 1,500 workers have returned to their posts at the Medupi Power Station, but more than 12,000 others are still on what it says is an unprotected strike led by National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

The workers are demanding better living conditions in hostels, bonuses for the completion of unit six as well as a higher living-out allowance.

Yesterday, police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators allegedly intimidating other workers.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe says a court has interdicted the workers to return but this has not happened.

"Most of the people who are working at Medupi are not Eskom employees. All the people who are currently on the stay away, they are not Eskom employees, they are working for a contractor. It will be up to the contractor to decide as to how they will take this matter going forward."

Meanwhile, Eskom said the public should start to see an improvement in power supply as it continues to repair generators at power plants.

The utility said maintenance and the repair of key generators is set to continue after it carried out a so-called maintenance festival over the long weekend.

Eskom said the maintenance of its key power plant was a lengthy process and with winter approaching, it's central that vital work be conducted now to avoid the country being left in the cold.

Phasiwe said there had been some improvement but certain stations still needed proper maintenance.

"We're beginning to see an improvement in terms of the operations of our power stations or units, but we're not out of the weeds yet."

He said it took some time to repair and service all power stations.

"Some of them may take a bit long because obviously it depends on the nature of the things that need to be repaired."

With continued load shedding, Eskom said it aimed to ensure undisturbed power supply but the margin would remain tight over the coming weeks.

Phasiwe said cold conditions were also a factor to be considered.

"Some parts of the country are getting colder and that's when they use a lot of electricity."

Despite measures to prevent load shedding, Eskom is still calling for South Africans to realise that the overall supply problem has not yet been resolved.