Tensions are rising at Eskom, with the struggling South African electricity supplier confirming protests at several power stations over failed wage talks.
Groups at six coal-fired power stations “have blocked roads leading to some of the power stations, hampering the movement of people and goods into and out of the facilities,” spokesman Sikonathi Mantshantsha said in a text message Thursday.
“Although some incidents of bullying have been reported, protesters are largely peaceful at this point.”
The development adds pressure on the utility, which is already failing to meet electricity demand and is being forced to implement controlled blackouts to prevent the grid from collapsing altogether. Eskom, which generates almost all of the country’s energy, reached an impasse with unions in wage talks earlier this week.
The company’s last major wage talks in 2018 ended in union protests – considered illegal because the utility provides an essential service – which led to power shortages. A three-year agreement was then signed for wage increases of up to 7.5% per year.
Some of Thursday’s protesters were wearing union gear, Mantshantsha said. The police were alerted.
The National Union of Miners and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa are the two main trade union groups at Eskom. The energy coordinator for NUM did not immediately return a call and text. A NUMSA spokeswoman declined to comment.
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