Eskom defends subsidised lunches for workers

The power utility says access to food has a direct impact on productivity.

Eskom's chairperson Zola Tsotsi revealed the power utility will be suspending four executives as part of an independent inquiry into the business at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg on 12 March 2015. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom has defended its spending on subsidised meals for workers at its Medupi Power Station saying access to food has a direct impact on productivity.

This follows reports the utility spends just over a R1 billion on subsidised meals for workers at the plant.

The parastatal has been battling a series of financial woes and has had to review its costs over the years.

Spokesperson Khulu Pasiwe said, "So far, that arrangement where we are cutting the cost of time, no one can quantify the cost of time. That has been working for us. Most of our workers are working in places very far from shops."

More than 12,000 Medupi power station workers are still on 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.

Eskom is struggling to keep the lights on in Africa's most advanced economy due to a lack of maintenance of its aging power stations and suffers delays in bringing new plants on stream.

The utility is desperately trying to plug a funding shortfall of about 225 billion rand, partly caused by selling its electricity too cheaply.

Weary South Africans are subjected to frequent controlled power cuts which Eskom implements to prevent the grid from being overwhelmed.