Strike warning: Numsa warns of more Medupi and Kusile delays

Cape Town – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) warned that further construction delays at Eskom’s coal power plants Medupi and Kusile could occur if they go on strike in the engineering and metals sector.

Construction on these two projects started in 2007 and 2008, but will only be fully completed by 2022. The stations, which will deliver 9 600 MW of power, will cost about R310bn when complete.

They have endured time and cost overruns, caused by strikes, mismanagement and poor governance. Allegations that Hitachi sold a 25% interest to Chancellor House in the late 2000s to land the lucrative contracts Medupi and Kusile also plagued the project.

Limited skills, poor upfront planning, inadequate quality control and labour strikes were key reasons for delays at Eskom’s new build projects Medupi and Kusile, the Dentons report commissioned by Eskom in 2015 revealed.

Eskom received a loan of almost R20bn this month from the China Development Bank to help finance the continued construction of Medupi.

Now, the warning of another strike could hamper the power utility’s hope of speeding up the completion of Medupi (half is operational) and Kusile (a third is adding power to the grid).

Numsa, which represents 140 000 workers, said on Tuesday that it is preparing its members to go on strike within 48 hours when it gives final notice.

Numsa is seeking a 15% wage increase, far higher than the offer of 5.3%, Numsa explained in a statement on Tuesday.

“We deadlocked with employers on the 15th of June because the proposal they put on the table would result in a down variation in the working conditions of our members,” Numsa said.

 “If the strike commences, ongoing work at Medupi, Kusile and Ingqurha will be delayed,” it warned.

The strike threat comes as Eskom is set to announce its annual integrated results on Wednesday.

“Employers in the metals and engineering industry will have to take full responsibility for the repercussions that this strike will have on the economy as a result of their intransigence,” it said.

Other sectors that would be affected include foundries, electronics and telecommunications, plastic and fabrication industries. Machinery and equipment, automotive components sector, electrical engineering, basic metals, heavy and light engineering, gate and fence, and construction engineering companies will also be affected.

Companies that will be affected include Auto Industrial, Bell Equipment, CBI, Union Carriage and Wagon, Dorbyl, Marley Pipe System and Dana Spicer Axle amongst others.

“Some of these companies supply critical parts to the auto industry and could have a disastrous impact on their already strained supply obligations,” Numsa said.

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