South Africa’s Eskom says power supply steady despite strike
The dispute is the latest problem to beset Eskom, which has struggled to meet power demand in South Africa due to its aging power plants and grid. However, it has managed a year without rolling blackouts that have hurt the economy in the past.
The company, the sole power provider in Africa’s most industrialised country, said on Thursday only around 2,000 of its 47,000 staff were taking part in the strike that started on Monday, following a deadlock in wage negotiations with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
“The majority of our people are here…the work at our power stations continues without any interruptions,” Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said.
The NUM, which has around 15,000 members at Eskom, about a third of the employees, said it could not immediately verify the exact number of members on strike, its chief negotiator at the utility, Helen Diatile, said.
Eskom, whose operations are designated essential services by law, obtained a court order against the NUM and two other unions on Wednesday to stop the strike. The NUM has said its members were taking part in the strike in defiance of the court order.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is trying to bridge the gap between the parties. The utility is offering pay increases of 7 to 9 percent while the NUM on Tuesday lowered its wage demand to 8.5 to 10 percent from 12 to 13 percent.
Around 15,000 workers in the petrochemical industry have also been on strike over wages since last week, but so far there have been no significant fuel shortages.