Eskom has shut down Medupi Power Plant in Lephalale, Limpopo, to protect its property and workers, after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) went on strike at the plant, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 on Wednesday.
Eskom earlier announced it would implement stage 2 load shedding, which would start at 16:00. The shedding of about 2 000MW would have been needed after the loss of 794MW of generation capacity at Medupi’s unit 6.
The construction of Medupi Power Station has been plagued by delays and spiraling costs, with one energy expert predicting the final cost to have escalated to R145bn.
While Medupi was supposed to feed power into the grid years ago, the first unit was only synchronised on March 2, feeding 794MW into the grid.
Closure of plant to protect staff and property
Phasiwe said that, from Eskom’s experience, people on strike intimidated those not on strike and sometimes caused damage to property, which is why they decided to shut down the plant.
“We will meet with reps of the trade union this afternoon to hear their issues,” he told Fin24.
Numsa said in a statement on Wednesday that about 21 000 workers, the majority belonging to Numsa, embarked on a protest action to highlight their plight or grievances at Medupi Power Station.
“Today’s action has resulted in … the total closure of the Medupi Power station, as a direct response by Eskom, to quell workers action. A memorandum of demands was submitted to Eskom by our members.
“Numsa is convinced that the workers’ reasonable demands can be resolved by Eskom, without any undue disruption of work.
“Already these workers have delivered on their mandate in building a power station, so that it can provide the necessary and much needed power to the national grid.”
Workers seek bonuses
Their key demands included completion bonuses, which they said should be given to all workers, not only to senior managers.
They also called for retrenchments of workers to be halted with immediate effect.
Numsa also called on Eskom to end “racialised evictions of workers from their subsidised accommodation”.
“We call on Eskom to respond to the demands of workers.
“The failure by Eskom to respond to these genuine and legitimate demands of workers, will force the union to escalate its organisational muscle and power until these demands are met.
“We will be compelled to pull-out our members into a full blown action, including workers at Kusile Power Station, in Mpumalanga.”