Sarah Evans | 15 April 2013 | M&G
National Union of Metal Workers SA has proposed one centralised negotiation for wage disputes at Eskom’s Medupi, Kusile and Ingula projects
Workers returned to the Eskom’s Kusile mega power station plant on Monday as unions prepare for a week of talks aimed at resolving an ongoing labour dispute.
Workers downed tools on Thursday citing a breakdown in talks over food, accommodation and other working conditions, sparking fears of a prolongued labour dispute mirroring that at Kusile’s twin station, Medupi.
Workers are also unhappy at being accommodated near a sewerage plant.
National Union of Metal Workers South Africa’s (Numsa) national basic metals and energy sector coordinator, Stephen Nhlapo, said a committee of stakeholders would hold talks throughout the week in an effort to speed up negotiations. He said all workers were on site on Monday having returned on the understanding that negotiations were under way.
Meanwhile, Numsa wants a central document to guide the employment conditions of all construction industry workers, as the government embarks on its multibillion-rand infrastructure development build.
Nhlapo said the proposal, which would centralise working conditions on both public and private sector projects, would be put to Numsa’s membership at its shopstewards bargaining council meeting this week.
Nhlapo said the union hoped to pre-empt the outbreak of pocketed labour unrest on construction projects, thereby speeding up construction. Medupi, for example, is 18 months behind schedule.
The union also hopes to talk stakeholders into centralising talks at Medupi, Kusile and Ingula, Eskom’s pumped storage programme in KwaZulu-Natal. Nhlapo said workers’ complaints were the same at all three projects and that there was no need to hold three separate sets of negotiations to resolve the complaints.
On Wednesday, it is hoped that subcontractors, who are not involved in all three projects, will agree to centralised talks, he said.
Meanwhile, “95%” of workers have returned to the Medupi site in Limpopo following 10 weeks of labour disputes, according to Numsa. Nhlapo said only minor issues relating to workers’ conditions remained to be ironed out on site. These included what was to happen to workers who were suspended during the strike action, he said.
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba visited the Medupi site on Thursday for an inspection. He remained adamant that the plant would be operational by December.