Eskom: Doubt over Medupi deadlines

(Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)
(Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

Johannesburg - Eskom has barred hundreds of workers from accessing its Medupi construction site in Lephalale, Limpopo – leading to doubt that the power utility can meet its timelines for delivery of all six units at the power plant.

National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim earlier this week said the power utility had imposed a lockout on workers, who were due to return to work after unprotected industrial action which saw Eskom evacuate the site two weeks ago.

READ: Burning tyres and intimidation at Medupi

But Khulu Phasiwe, the power utility’s spokesperson, denied there was a lockout.

“[The] site is open for production and some workers are on site working,” he told City Press earlier on Thursday.

“Only workers who are identified to have participated in the illegal march have been blocked access until an industrial relations process between themselves and their employers has been concluded.”

He said the utility had asked contractors, to whom the employees belong, to conclude their industrial relations processes as quickly as possible to minimise the impact to Medupi, which is currently not at full production.

The power utility has barred these employees access to the site as a precautionary measure to ensure stability and safety, especially following previous reports of intimidation, vandalism and damage to property.

However, work on the plant’s unit 6, its first boiler which is currently being synchronised to the grid with full production expected by end-June, is proceeding as planned.

READ: Medupi lock-out a declaration of war – Numsa

The site access issue follows the March 25 industrial action, which saw Eskom first sending text messages to the 1 700 workers who participated indicating they would be dismissed.

Unions were under the impression that these employees would return to the site on Wednesday, but Phasiwe has previously denied this, insisting disciplinary hearings would proceed against them.

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