Power restored to some areas

By Drum Digital
06 September 2013

Power was fully restored to areas including Houghton and Melville by noon on Friday, while other parts of Johannesburg could be left in the dark over the weekend, City Power said.

The electricity supply was also reconnected in Auckland Park, Kew, and Bramley, the power distributor said in a statement.

Power was disrupted in parts of the West Rand and northern Johannesburg when a few hundred City Power staff downed tools on Wednesday afternoon. City Power said the strike was not union-led.

The workers were unhappy about a new shift system the power distributor was implementing.

It was believed that striking workers had sabotaged the infrastructure causing the widespread blackouts, which impacted on traffic flow and affected some businesses' operations.

City Power on Wednesday night set up a back-up generator in 11th Avenue, Houghton, a block away from the house where former president Nelson Mandela lives.

Mandela was discharged from the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria on Sunday to recuperate at home following a lengthy stay after being admitted for treatment of a recurring lung infection on June 8.

His home has been reconfigured to ensure he receives the correct care, and some staff who had been at the hospital are also caring for him at home.

His condition was last described by the presidency as still critical and stable, but at times unstable.

Earlier, power was restored in Lawley and Lenasia South.

City Power said it expected all affected areas to be restored within three days, but stressed that on-going work would see suburbs gradually restored during this time.

It was using contractors to restore power to the rest of the affected areas.

City Power engineering operations director Louis Pieterse said in an interview on Radio 702 on Friday morning that the new shift system, which sparked the strike, was intended to cut costs associated with overtime.

"Seventy-eight percent of the year falls outside normal working hours," he said.

As overtime was expensive. City Power believed that the funds saved through implementing a shift system could be better used, for example more people could be employed.

Pieterse said workers were not yet ready to negotiate on the matter.

"If staff were willing to talk, we could get to a solution."

On Thursday, Democratic Alliance spokesman on infrastructure services in Johannesburg Denis Hunt said City Power's new shift system would result in a decrease in workers' take-home pay.

He also raised concerns that City Power was understaffed.

"The members of the DA sitting in the section 79 oversight committee have for months drawn attention to the perilously low level of staffing at City Power, in many areas being below the full complement by 50 percent and more.

"... In a market where competing for skills has become the norm and finding qualified people willing to work in these conditions is difficult, to introduce a working structure which reduces what the workers have come to expect is suicidal."

Hunt said the power problems could lead to economic losses in the city.

By Thursday afternoon, power had been restored to the Hursthill and Mayfair substations which supply Auckland Park, Bosmont, Crosby, Emmarentia, Mayfair, Northcliff, Rosebank, Riverlea and the Westdene areas; and to the Cydna and Alexandra and Gresswold substations which supply Athol, Alexandra, Bramley, Hyde Park, Melrose, Riverpark, Tsutsumani and the Wynberg areas.

On Friday morning, however, City Power said the supply to residents' homes in areas such as Northcliff had yet to be restored, despite progress towards this having been made.

-Sapa

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