Power utility Eskom, its contractors and trade unions representing workers at the Medupi and Kusile power-station project sites have not been able to conclude a new labour agreement by the end of May as initially hoped. However, Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said on Friday that significant progress had been made and that a deal could be finalised by the end of next week.
The talks, which are being facilitated by mediators, have been convened in an effort to renegotiate the troublesome project labour agreements (PLAs) and replace these with new ‘partnership agreements’.
The PLAs have been blamed for labour strife on both sites, with the Medupi project, in Limpopo, having been particularly strike prone – the site was closed for 10 weeks earlier in the year.
Joffe said that, in light of “pay long weekend”, the participants had agreed to reconvene during the working week starting June 3 with the aim of finalising the agreement.
The reworked arrangement is expected to result in a more consistent application of labour contracts across the site and could include productivity-linked incentives to align rewards for workers with their keeping to project schedules.
Power from Medupi’s first unit, or Unit 6, is anticipated by December and the 4 764 MW facility is scheduled to be completed in 2016. Power from the 4 800 MW Kusile project’s first unit is expected in 2014, with the five subsequent units being completed at six- to eight-month intervals thereafter.
The seven unions involved in the PLA negotiations are also keen for payment rates for general workers to be standardised and are seeking training commitments from the contractors.
Eskom has indicated that it will take a more “hands on” approach both to industrial relations and to the management of the project.
A board subcommittee is monitoring progress across all capital project and is reporting back to Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba every two weeks. In addition, Eskom senior executives are spending at least a day a week on the Medupi site.