About 20,000 workers at South Africa’s Eskom Medupi power plant were locked out of the construction site on Thursday following a one-day strike over poor living conditions and higher pay, a union official told Reuters.
“The company decided to lock workers out. The site is closed, around 20,000 workers are off site,” said Steve Nhlapo, head of collective bargaining for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.
Union officials would try and meet management and could approach the court for an interdict to compel workers’ return if no headway was made to resolve the issue, he said.
Labour disruptions and technical faults at coal-fired Medupi, the first power station South Africahas built in two decades, has seen costs increase massively while delaying output.
Medupi and its sister coal-fired plant Kusile are seen as vital to Eskom bringing 10,000 megawatts of new power by 2020 as it tries to reverse the worst power outages afflicting Africa’s most advanced economy since 2008.
Eskom’s spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said he was not aware that the site was closed and that workers were expected to return to their posts today. The strikers are not Eskom employees but are contract workers, he added.