Unions bypassed agreement at Medupi - Eskom | Fin24
 
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Unions bypassed agreement at Medupi - Eskom

Apr 01 2015 17:00
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Eskom said it was shocked to hear about the demands and plans for what it termed the illegal strike at Medupi Power Station last week, because the unions didn't go through the agreed upon channels that would have avoided the current problems.

Eskom, which is currently mediating negotiations between workers and the contractors, said on Wednesday their Partnership Agreement (PA) with unions was set up to avoid such incidents, but that this process was not used last week.

Eskom said in a statement on Wednesday it would meet with the unions to “discuss its discontent at last week’s incident as Eskom has invested a significant sum of time and resources on the PA for the purposes of addressing the plight of workers and achieving peace and stability on the Medupi and Kusile projects”.

After a disciplinary hearing this week, Medupi Power Station's contractors have fired or handed out written warnings to employees who went on the illegal strike.

Last week, about 1 000 workers were fired for vandalising property, Eskom said.

READ:Eskom says 1000 Medupi workers fired

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said workers, mostly from Numsa, embarked on a protest action on 25 March to highlight their plight or grievances.

"Numsa is convinced that workers' reasonable demands can be resolved by Eskom, without any undue disruption of work," Numsa said at the time.

READ: Eskom: Medupi workers demand better conditions

Eskom said the number of affected workers was 1 700, while the total complement for the construction project was around 14 000.  

Eskom acted swiftly last week, locking all workers involved in the strike out of the power station to avert destruction to property and sent an SMS warning to workers.

READ: Eskom shuts down Medupi over strike action

Numsa said the SMS read: “Dear employee, with effect from 27 March 2015, you are not required to report for duty. The company will proceed and implement disciplinary processes forthwith and you will be notified accordingly.”

That disciplinary hearing took place, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 on Wednesday, adding that Eskom was mediating between the Medupi contractors and their staff.

“The people who participated in the illegal strike have received final warnings, while others have been fired,” he told Fin24.

“We met the unions yesterday [Tuesday] because Eskom and the contractors wanted to know what the issues were,” he said.

No agreement reached

“No formal agreement has been reached as we are still negotiating,” Phasiwe said. “As is normal practice, the contractors have gone on leave over the Easter break and will only get back on April 8, when we will be able to take the negotiations forward.”

“If people have grievances then there are certain protocols,” Phasiwe told Fin24, explaining the PA process. “We are not trying to crush them from exercising their rights. The PA was formed in 2013 to avoid circumstances like these."  

Following the signing of the PA, work stoppages were brought down to a minimum and workers benefiting out of better working conditions, Eskom said.

"The PA further created engagement platforms for all parties to the partnership to resolve areas of difference on the employee relations front, be it even on an urgent basis.

"This would, therefore, create conducive conditions for partners to work with each other in achieving peace, stability and production on the projects. 

"Eskom expects all the parties involved to double their efforts in order to maintain long-term site stability and achieve desired levels of productivity.

"It’s a formal process where they meet on a regular basis. It is why we were so shocked when the illegal strike took place last week.”

Numsa said the key demands by workers were:

-    A completion bonus should be given to all workers, not only to senior managers;

-    Retrenchments of workers should be halted with immediate effect;

-    An end to racialised evictions of workers from their subsidised accommodation.

medupi power station  |  eskom  |  numsa
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