Medupi madness: 1000 workers fired at Eskom’s Medupi plant

JOHANNESBURG, March 27 (Reuters) – About 1,000 workers at the construction site of South Africa’s Eskom Medupi power plant have been fired for vandalising property during this week’s one-day strike, the power utility’s spokesman said on Friday.

A construction truck drives past the Medupi power station in Lephalele in this file picture taken April 11, 2013. Workers at South Africa's Eskom Medupi power plant have embarked on a one day strike, protesting against poor living conditions and demanding higher pay at the facility which is under construction, a local radio reported on Wednesday. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files
A construction truck drives past the Medupi power station in Lephalele. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files

About 21,000 contract workers went on a one-day strike on Wednesday over poor living conditions and seeking higher pay.

“Some of the workers have received text messages for them not to come today, they have been fired,” Khulu Phasiwe told Reuters, adding that they were notEskom’s employees but belonged to firms contracted to build the plant.

Murray & Roberts and Actom, a unit of France’s Alstom SA, are some of the companies building the coal-fired power plant.

No one was immediately available to comment at both firms.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)said it would fight the dismissals and threatened more strikes at the plant.

“No worker will return to work when 1,000 workers are fired. This will just make them stay away for longer,” said Steve Nhlapo, NUMSA’s head of collective bargaining.

“You can’t fire workers by text, there are procedures to follow and unions to consult.”

Labour disruption and technical faults have increased costs at the long-delayed Medupi coal plant, expected to start generating 800 megawatts of extra electricity by July.

Medupi, whose total installed capacity is expected to be 4,764 MW when fully complete, would be the first power station that South Africa has built in 20 years.Eskom has been implementing regular power cuts to cope with power shortages. (Reporting by Peroshni Govender; Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by James Macharia)