Power strike amid outages

2008-08-04 00:00

Staff at the Msunduzi Municipality’s electricity department downed tools yesterday and refused to attend to complaints about power cuts until their grievances receive “proper attention”.

The Witness was inundated with calls from angry residents and businesses who complained about power cuts in some parts of the CBD and neighbouring suburbs, saying they could not get through to the department to lodge their complaints.

A Hilton resident said that she tried to get assistance, but was told that management and staff were in a meeting and that the power might only be restored today.

Another resident said she has been experiencing random power outages in Bale Street near Mayor’s Walk since Saturday. When she went to lay a complaint at the electricity department offices, she was told that the staff and management were resolving a dispute and would attend to her complaint and many others once they reach an “amicable conclusion”.

A shop steward in the electricity department who did not want to be named said they downed tools because the management and politicians are stalling in rolling out the scarce skills allowance.

He said municipalities such as eThekwini have been paying their staff the scarce skills allowance since last year, but Msunduzi has been stalling, telling electricians they are refining council policy.

He said they demanded the presence of Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo and senior management to resolve the dispute and issues of inequality.

A staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, said they are aware of the random power outages and what causes them and the downing of tools was timed to cripple the city as it coincided with the appearance of ANC president Jacob Zuma in the high court yesterday.

Strategic executive manager for infrastructure services and facilities, Phil Mashoko, said the strike was illegal and they have imposed the “no work, no pay” policy. He said the matter has been resolved.

Asked about the random power outages in various parts of the city, Mashoko said the faults have been isolated. There have been faults at some sub-stations, cable faults and problems with the protection system, especially over the weekend. He said they have looked into the problems and will work to resolve them.

Mashoko said that due to yesterday’s strike they accumulated a backlog of complaints. “We had lots of power outages due to the downing of tools. We are looking at how we are going to deal with them,” he said.

Municipal manager Rob Haswell said they had stand-by crews working through the night to address the backlog. He apologised for the inconvenience.

thandom@witness.co.za

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