National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola has denied that the union is part of plans to hold a protest at Eskom’s Megawatt Park headquarters in Joburg on Friday (1 July).
This comes after a 29 June memo, bearing Numsa’s and the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) logos as well as signatures of senior union officials, began circulating and calls for a picket at Eskom’s head office on Friday. It also calls for the resignation of Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer and general manager of people relations Dr Thulane Ngele.
When asked to confirm the authenticity of the letter, Hlubi-Majola told Moneyweb that the statement “is not [an] official communication from Numsa” adding that the union’s focus currently is to engage the power utility on a new wage deal.
“There is no Numsa picket at Megawatt Park on Friday. We are focusing on the talks which are happening at the Central Bargaining Forum (CBF) from tomorrow with Eskom,” she added in a message to Moneyweb.
Num’s energy sector coordinator Khangela Baloyi, however, did not deny the veracity of the memo, saying that it was passed on by branches of the union.
“This letter is from branches in Lephalale [in Limpopo]. The branches are divided on this issue,” Baloyi wrote in a message to Moneyweb.
In the joint memo, union members have also called on their unions to provide transportation to Eskom’s head office on Friday, so that workers can air their grievances to their bosses.
“Employees are requesting the two organisations to provide buses to Eskom Megawatt Park on Friday 01 July 2022. Employees are calling the removal of Andre de Ruyter; Jan Oberholzer and Dr Thulani Ngele,” the letter reads.
Calls by Num and Numsa members for De Ruyter and Oberholzer to resign are not new. In November and December 2021 members of both unions made similar calls.
Meanwhile, when asked if Eskom is aware of any plans for a protest by workers at its headquarters on Friday, Eskom’s spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha responded to Moneyweb: “There’s nothing for Eskom to respond to on this. Wage talks will resume tomorrow.”
Questioned whether the utility has a mitigation plan in place, Mantshantsha said Eskom will be taking precautionary measures should a picket materialise tomorrow.
“Load shedding is continuing right now because there is still high levels of absenteeism and intimidation of working employees,” he added.
Impact on load shedding
Should the protest take place at Eskom’s head office on Friday, it could exacerbate South Africa’s load shedding woes.
In the wake of Eskom employees embarking on an illegal strike last week, the power utility was forced to escalate load shedding to Stage 6 during evening peaks on Tuesday and Wednesday, to try and balance increased evening demand with a severely constrained generation system.
On Wednesday, protesting Eskom employees were supposed to return to their duties after unions and Eskom decided to reconvene wage negotiations.
However a statement issued by the power utility on Wednesday afternoon noted that although some workers were making their way back to work, many more remained “absent”.
Consequently, Eskom cautioned that it may take a while for its systems to recover. It said that it could take as long as weeks to clear its maintenance backlog and for South Africans to return to some sort of normalcy on the power supply front.