Eskom employees in Mpumalanga vow to continue protesting until their demands are met

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Eskom employees at the Matla Power Station near Kriel in Mpumalanga say although their strike has worsened the current rolling blackouts they will not return to work until their demands are met.

About 200 employees affiliated to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at the power station are on strike demanding a salary increase.

Workers are demanding a 15% salary increase, while the power utility has revised its offer to 7%.

On Wednesday, Eskom announced that employees at some power plants across the country had started to peacefully return to work after being on an unprotected strike since last week.

NUM’s branch chairperson Nkosinathi Sithole says Eskom management has been negotiating in bad faith.

“We love South Africa. We are equally affected by load shedding because before we are employees, we are citizens of this country but Eskom is treating us like sub-humans. The situation has got out of hand now, hence the employees are saying if their demands are not met, they are not going back.”

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola says at some point Eskom walked out of negotiations: 

Meanwhile, members of the public will get a reprieve from stage six rolling blackouts from Thursday. Eskom has announced that it has implemented stage four starting from five o’clock on Thursday morning until midnight.

This will be reduced to stage two on Friday.

On Tuesday, Eskom ramped up rolling blackouts to stage six. The first and only time South Africa last endured this level of power cuts was in December 2019.

The power utility’s spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha says the grid has remained constrained because of Eskom workers’ unprotected strike.

“Eskom continues to closely monitor the system and will implement any changes as may be necessary. Due to the unlawful and unprotected labour action, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom’s power plants, Eskom is unable to return some generators to service. This has compelled Eskom to continue taking precautionary measures to conserve emergency generation capacity and safeguard plant from damage. There remains a risk that the stage of load shedding may have to change at any time, depending on the state of the plant.”

Experts say businesses have been negatively affected by the blackouts: