Power to factory sabotaged

2013-03-26 00:00

THE owner of a Mooi River factory believes disgruntled former employees were behind the sabotage of a transformer that supplies electricity to the factory.

The transformer was surrounded with the burned-out remains of several tyres that had been placed underneath the transformer and set alight.

When the transformer stopped working, the resulting loss of power to the factory halted all operations.

This is the latest round of troubles for Tai Yuen Textiles, which has been haemorrhaging an estimated R1million a day in lost production after firing 580 workers — its entire labour force — last Monday.

Chief executive Ho-Chi Cheng said the strikers had been fired after refusing to return to work, despite several ultimatums and a court order.

The factory had announced that it would be hiring new workers this week, but when management came to work yesterday ready to receive new recruits, there was no power.

“We learned that some of the workers wanted to return to work but due to intimidation they had not been able to,” said Cheng.

He said he suspected former employees were behind the fire, because they had been seen burning tyres on the bridge after starting the strike last week.

“We are still baffled by how people knew this was the transformer that fed electricity to our company. We suspect that it was the angry workers who did this. Our electricity supply has been sabotaged so we have to put our plans on hold until that has been sorted.”

The company was using a back-up generator to do office work, but the rest of the operations were halted.

He said workers went on strike before stating their grievances. “When we asked them to give us their grievance they wanted us to suspend one of our senior managers,” said Cheng, adding that his business was losing out on orders, production and supply to several big retailers. Tai Yuen Textiles also sells cotton wool in bulk to small companies that make fabric.

Cheng said he was worried because none of his big trucks was delivering orders and that was “killing” his business.

South African Clothing and Textile Union regional secretary Dennis Maluleka said the company had not told the union about any act of sabotage. “We were still trying to resolve the situation so that our members can be reinstated,” said Maluleka.

He said the union discouraged its members from conducting any act of sabotage. “Our members must act within the law,” said Maluleka.

Meanwhile, acting Mpofana Municipality manager Mario Links said the council would pay about R500 000 to replace the burnt transformer. Links said

It would take time to replace because the burnt components had to be ordered from overseas. “We are looking at other options to restore temporary electricity to the factory.”

Links said the matter had been reported to the police.

The chairperson of the infrastructure portfolio committee, Xolani Duma, said a meeting had been held with community members. “We will be meeting the Tai Yuen management because we want to help resolve this matter amicably,” he said.

Duma urged residents in Bruntville, where most of the workers live, to remain calm.

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