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Court declares Eskom strikes unlawful

Eskom started controlled power blackouts on Thursday after workers protesting over pay hurt its ability to deliver electricity to Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Labour Court has issued an order declaring strikes by labour unions at struggling state power firm Eskom “unprotected and unlawful,” a registrar at the court told Reuters on Friday.

Eskom started controlled power blackouts on Thursday after workers protesting over pay hurt its ability to deliver electricity to Africa’s most industrialised economy. The power utility implemented stage 1 load shedding on Thursday night.

Eskom says officials had to take the decision to implement stage 1 load shedding on Thursday because the generation and distribution of power across their network was constrained. The power company produces more than 90% of South Africa’s power.

On Thursday, the power utility's Khulu Phasiwe explained why power was switched off in a number of communities.

“Some of our colleagues are deliberately switching off some of our distribution networks and, as a result, it’s making things very difficult for us to supply electricity to the affected areas.”

Phasiwe also says one of their employees was attacked by protesters on Thursday.

“There are people who are not part of this industrial action who are willing and ready to go to work, but they’re prohibited and others are being intimidated. At least one of them, from the reports that we have, has already been hospitalised after being attacked.”

There were several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff, and willful damage to electricity infrastructure. Workers have been demanding a 15% wage hike and the matter has now been referred to the CCMA.

The country's power grid was stable early on Friday but controlled blackouts were still a possibility in the evening if union members don’t return to work, a spokesman for power utility Eskom said.

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