Trouble is brewing at Eskom’s Kusile Power Station in Mpumalanga following the mass dismissal of hundreds of outsourced workers after protests threatened operations at the station.
According to a community group which calls itself the Waya Waya Community Movement, 500 workers employed by a company contracted by Eskom to provide security personnel were fired after continuous protests over unpaid wages. Eskom disputes the number, saying “less than 400” protested.
The group claimed that wage delays were caused by Kusile which, according to them, had for the past eight months been struggling to pay the company, Hlanganani, on time. This resulted in late payments and eventually no salaries.
The Citizen has not been able to reach the company for comment.
The contract has since been terminated, according to Eskom, but the group demands that the workers be absorbed by Eskom, claiming it was the utility’s fault they were fired.
“We want to see the workers retained at Kusile Power Station, [because] such a cruel and heartless legacy of deliberately creating unemployment in our surrounding communities cannot be tolerated …”, a spokesperson for the group said.
Kusile is the third-largest power station in the world, followed by Eskom’s Medupi Power Station. The construction of both stations has been an ongoing process mired by delays since 2007 and 2008. The projects’ costs have already reached over R300 billion, with a further R18 billion needed for each one’s completion.
Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said the utility could neither confirm nor deny whether Eskom failed to pay the company on time numerous times, but he said the matter between Eskom and Hlanganani was in the courts.
“Eskom is committed to paying Hlanganani. However, Hlanganani, being a contractor at Eskom Kusile for a few years, is well aware of the payment processes that need to be followed,” said Mothae. “Eskom would like to state that the matter of contract termination is sub judice, as Hlanganani has referred the matter to their attorneys, who have indicated they are referring the matter for adjudication.”
According to Mothae, the numerous times Hlanganani security guards went on strike made it impossible for the site to operate optimally. The company and its employees had entered into a peace accord before it was apparently violated by the workers going on strike again this month.
“Kusile management notified Hlanganani that any strikes, legal or not, place the Kusile site in a vulnerable state,” said Mothae.