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Medupi workers face disciplinary action

Jan 17 2013 16:11
Johannesburg - Striking construction workers at the Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo, might face disciplinary action, Eskom said on Thursday.

"The construction workers were locked out by their employees, who are looking at disciplinary processes against them," spokesperson Hilary Joffe said.

"The site is not closed, but operations remain suspended. We want to ensure the safety of the people and the site before we restore operations. Eskom is working with the contractors to get this to happen."

On Friday, about 1 100 workers employed by Alstom Kentz went on strike at Medupi, resulting in the company locking them out.

Joffe said 25 workers were injured when violence broke out, while strikers were trying to stop buses taking their colleagues to the construction site on Wednesday.

"There were disruptions to the bus transport and strikers pelted the buses with stones. As Eskom we do not condone violence," she said.

"Yesterday's [Wednesday's] protest mainly involved workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA [Numsa]," said Joffe.

On Wednesday, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim claimed that management had provoked the protest.

"We think that companies at Medupi are extremely mischievous, and we think that there is a deliberate agenda to consistently create frustrations and to provoke workers, for the sole intention of delaying the project so that they extend their benefits in that project."

He said last week that workers had queried the bonuses they were paid.

On Thursday, the Democratic Alliance urged the public enterprises department to send mediators to the power station to resolve the strike.

"Eskom simply cannot be allowed to continue botching the construction of the Medupi power station," spokesperson Natasha Michael said.

"Too much time and public money have already been invested, and it is deplorable that the lives of workers are now being threatened as a result of the construction."

Michael said Public Works Minister Malusi Gibaba needed to ensure that Eskom produced a workable plan to get the construction back on track, to ensure the safety of workers.

"Failure to do so will just result in more unrest and greater delays down the line," she said.

Joffe said Medupi's first unit was expected to start generating power to South Africa's national grid by the end of the year.

"Eskom has not changed timelines; Medupi is on a tight schedule to deliver power to the grid by the end of this year," she said.

"Any labour disruptions pose a threat to the achievement of the programme."

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