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Solidarity to implement ‘action plan’ over power cuts

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In a bid to assist with the countries crippling electricity crisis, trade union Solidarity has sought to implement a three step action plan that will assist Eskom with getting their system back up to standard. Eskom has come under severe criticism over the past few weeks after the reimplementation of rolling blackouts, stemming from a collapsed silo at its Majuba power station.

Further complicating matters, Eskom has attempted to reduce its expenditure by reportedly offering staff members special severance packages, in a major employee cull. The timing of this has drawn major criticism, particularly from Solidarity, who has in the region of 7000 members currently employed at Eskom.

Spokesperson, Piet le Roux, acknowledged that staff morale at the embattled electricity provider was at an all time low. However, Solidarity would not seek to stand in the way of those willing to accept the severance package, despite believing the offer came at a rather inopportune time.

“You’re trying to improve staff morale and maintain their skills, because your most skilled and most sought after workers will likely be leaving. So we don’t think the severance packages are good for electricity provision in South Africa,” he said.

Eskom is currently struggling to meet a more than 31 000MW electricity demand and le Roux suggested that should the current situation continue, there was a risk of a possible ‘cascading network failure’. This would be a result of the power demand exceeding what could be provided, and supply not being managed well enough through planned outages. This could potentially put the system at risk of becoming unstable, leading to a complete trip that could put the country in complete darkness.

In a bid to avoid such a situation arising, Solidarity has embarked on an action plan to assist Eskom. This will see members of the trade union advised to cut down on their electricity usage.

“The crisis is so severe at the moment, and the risk is that power will totally go off. In terms of economic damage and social instability, the risks there are so problematic that we will take extra measures and encourage our members to save electricity,” he said.

The second step of the action plan will see Solidarity essentially serve as a ‘whistleblower’ for Eskom, informing them on any issues at any of their power stations. Le Roux noted this was something already being done by the trade union, who had on previous occasions warned Eskom about cracks within a silo at the Majuba station. Those warnings were ultimately rejected by the electricity provider.

The final step would be the conducting of research on alternative electricity provision. The basis of this was creating competition within the electricity industry.

“It is unacceptable that there is only one provider in South Africa for all practical purposes. The market should be opened up,” he insisted.

Due to urgent maintenance work set to take place over the coming weekend, Eskom has warned that there is a high probability that load shedding may be reinforced during that period. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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