Eskom's Medupi power plant. Picture: SOWETAN
Eskom's Medupi power plant. Picture: SOWETAN

Eskom has warned of a high probability of load-shedding on Tuesday as a strike continues over wages at the power utility.

The potential return to load-shedding was attributed by Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe to "incidents of intimidation and blockades at some power stations". This included supplies of coal‚ being trucked to Duvha and Majuba power stations‚ being disrupted.

"Despite not implementing rotational load-shedding [on Monday]‚ the risk of load-shedding remains high during [Tuesday] morning peak-demand period from 5am. This is as a result of the current industrial action at Eskom power stations, which has impacted operations‚" Eskom said in a statement.

The power utility has encouraged residents and businesses to use electricity sparingly to reduce demand on the national grid. Residents were encouraged to switch off geysers during the day‚ especially during peak times between 5am and 10am and 5pm to 10pm‚ as well as non-essential lighting and electricity appliances.

"Eskom is urgently engaging union leaders to resolve the impasse as the current industrial action has negatively impacted plant operations and several power stations. The South African Police Services (SAPS) has been mobilised to maintain order and to enable safe access to power stations as these are National Key Points."

Eskom said on Monday that the protests raised the risk of load-shedding this week; similar protests in June triggered a spate of load-shedding. Earlier on Tuesday, however, Eskom had said its power stations were operating normally after disruptions on Monday by workers protesting over wages, the company and union sources said.

A source with the Solidarity trade union, one of three involved in the wage talks whose members have not taken part in the protests, confirmed that "all stations are open for workers to enter now".

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said many of its members at Eskom are on what amounts to a wildcat strike. NUM energy sector co-ordinator Paris Mashego said the power stations affected on Monday included Kendal, Hendrina, Arnot, Duvha and Matla, with workers at the Kriel station expected to down tools on Tuesday.

Phasiwe said coal supplies remained a concern. "Six power stations still have low stock levels of coal, so it’s critical that coal supplies continue to reach those stations."

The threat of protests and outages had appeared to recede after Eskom offered to raise salaries, giving two options, by about 7% a year over the next three years, but unions want bonuses to be paid before they agree to a wage deal.

With Reuters