1 000 workers fired in strike aftermath

JOHANNESBURG. — About 1 000 workers at the construction site of South Africa’s Eskom Medupi power plant have been fired for allegedly vandalising property during this week’s one-day strike, the power utility’s spokesperson said yesterday. About 21 000 contract workers went on a one-day strike on Wednesday over poor living conditions and seeking higher pay.

“Some of the workers have received text messages for them not to come today, they have been fired,” Khulu Phasiwe told Reuters, adding that they were not Eskom’s employees but belonged to firms contracted to build the plant.

Murray & Roberts and Actom, a unit of France’s Alstom SA, are some of the companies building the coal-fired power plant. No one was immediately available to comment at both firms.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said it would fight the dismissals and threatened more strikes at the plant.

“No worker will return to work when 1 000 workers are fired. This will just make them stay away for longer,” said Steve Nhlapo, Numsa’s head of collective bargaining.

“You can’t fire workers by text, there are procedures to follow and unions to consult.”

The union also called on Eskom and its sub-contractors to “suppress their egos” and respond to workers’ grievances.

“Any failure by Eskom and its sub-contractors to concede to our demands will leave us little choice but to flex our organisational muscle and collective power, both at Medupi and Kusile power stations,” Numsa said in a statement.

“We reject this reckless and provocative stance taken by Eskom’s sub-contracted companies to threaten workers with disciplinary actions via smses.”

According to the union, the text messages read: “Dear employee with effect from March 27 2015, you are not required to report for duty.

“The company will proceed and implement disciplinary processes forthwith and you will be notified accordingly.”

Labour disruption and technical faults have increased costs at the long-delayed Medupi Coal Plant, expected to start generating 800 megawatts of extra electricity by July.

Medupi, whose total installed capacity is expected to be 4 764MW when fully complete, would be the first power station that South Africa has built in 20 years. Eskom has been implementing regular power cuts to cope with power shortages.

Workers at the Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, Limpopo are being threatened with disciplinary action through text messages, their trade union said yesterday.

Numsa said this would lead to a total shut-down of the power station. – Fin24/HR.