eskomMoneyweb reports that the recovery of Eskom’s generation systems is off to a slow start as, according to the power utility’s statement on Wednesday, many of its workers remain absent.

This was despite Tuesday’s joint call by unions for workers to return to work on the promise that wage negotiations would continue on Friday. On Wednesday morning Eskom’s spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha advised that employees had returned to work to fulfil the essential service of keeping the country’s lights on. However, it seems the utility might have spoken too soon. Later in the day it released an alert that advised as follows: “While some workers have started reporting for duty at the power stations, there is still a high level of absenteeism. As a result of the unlawful strike, routine maintenance work has had to be postponed. This backlog will take days to weeks to clear. It is therefore important to note that the system will remain constrained and vulnerable to additional breakdowns while recovery activities are in progress.” The utility went on to indicate: “Due to the unlawful and unprotected labour action, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom’s power plants, Eskom is unable to return some generators to service. This has compelled Eskom to continue taking precautionary measures to conserve emergency generation capacity and safeguard plant from damage. There remains a risk that the stage of load shedding may have to change at any time, depending on the state of the plant.” The employee stayaway observed from 22 June came after Eskom management walked out of wage negotiation talks with the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Solidarity. The utility’s decision to return to the negotiating table with unions is the reason why some employees are making their way back to work. Although it is still unclear how much Eskom will be offering workers, the parties are set to resume talks on 1 July, where hopefully an agreement will be reached.

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