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No load shedding for 1 year, but Eskom sees strikes, leaks and drones

Aug 09 2016 22:49
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Eskom’s anniversary of no load shedding was marred on Women’s Day with a strike action escalation and two unrelated incidences at its nuclear power station on Tuesday.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said its members at Eskom will embark on a full-blown strike in all nine provinces of South Africa on Wednesday.

“The decision to strike was taken at an urgent NUM Eskom national shop stewards council held at the NUM head office today,” it said on Tuesday in a statement.

“All 15 000 members of the NUM at Eskom will be fighting for the restoration of the right to strike at Eskom.

“It is going to be a total withdrawal of labour by our members,” it said. “NUM members will be striking for the right to strike at Eskom. Our members right to strike cannot be taken away by anybody including Eskom's arrogant management.”

It is currently illegal for any workers to strike at Eskom, due to the sensitive nature the power utility has on the security of the nation.

READ: Eskom warns against illegal strike as NUM downs tools

Workers downed tools on Monday at three South African power stations as a wage strike began at state-run utility Eskom, but the company said its operations had not yet been impacted and branded the stoppage illegal.

On Monday, NUM called an urgent national shop steward council meeting for Tuesday to discuss Eskom's decision to reconsider its 7% offer.

On Tuesday, after that meeting NUM said its members want 10% for the lowest paid employees and 8.5% for the highest paid employees at Eskom, as well as a housing allowance of R3 000.

This is lower than what it demanded on Monday, which included a 12% increase for maximum wage earners and a 13% increase for minimum wage earners and a R5 000 housing allowance.

READ: Eskom to reconsider its 7% offer to NUM workers

Eskom said on Tuesday that it has contingency plans in place, so load shedding will not occur during the strike.

“Currently, we are offering between 7% and 9%. The matter has been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. We met last week on Monday, we are now waiting on the second round of negotiations,” Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told EWN.

3 Koeberg Nuclear power station managers suspended

Moving to its nuclear stations, Eskom said on Tuesday that it has placed the Koeberg Power Station manager and the plant manager on precautionary suspension.

This is “as a result of the distribution of documentation containing unauthorised facts and assumptions relating to Koeberg’s production plan and in particular, the steam generator replacement”, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The potential prejudice caused to Eskom by the unauthorised actions of the suspended personnel, is currently being assessed,” it said.

This comes as Eskom and Areva appealed to the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) that its steam generator award was both lawful and essential for nuclear safety, while losing bidder Westinghouse Belgium appealed to the ConCourt to be substituted as the successful bidder in place of Areva.

The Supreme Court of Appeal found that Eskom's contract with Areva was invalid and unlawful, and ordered that it be set aside.

READ: Yelland questions Eskom’s ‘vehement defence’ of Areva

“In an unrelated incident, a drone crashed on the Koeberg site in contravention of the nuclear safety regulations and was returned to its owner without the investigation having been completed,” Eskom said on Tuesday.

“Eskom has subsequently suspended the Koeberg Safety officer as a precautionary measure to fully investigate the incident,” it said. “The matter has also been reported to the SAPS as Koeberg is a National Key Point.”

These dramas occurred as Eskom marked exactly one year of no load shedding on Tuesday. “This is largely due to the rigorous plant maintenance programme that we have executed over the past 12 months,” it said.

“The adherence to regular scheduled maintenance is managed through the Tetris planning tool which schedules outages based on forecasted demand and maintenance requirements. A key aspect of this includes having a strict winter and summer maintenance budget that comprises 8.5GW for winter and 11.5GW for summer.”

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

koeberg  |  eskom  |  drones  |  nuclear
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