South Africa's Eskom Says Power Grid `Relatively Stable'

(Bloomberg) -- Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said South Africa’s electricity grid is “relatively stable” after it was forced to implement rolling blackouts on Thursday night amid wage protests.

Eskom, which generates almost all of the nation’s electricity, is locked in a dispute with workers after wage talks broke down last week over the state-owned utility’s insistence that it can’t afford pay increases. Supply was affected Thursday as demonstrators blockaded roads, attacked staff and damaged infrastructure, the company said.

Members of Eskom’s biggest unions plan to picket during their break midday on Friday, when the activity is allowed, Livhuwani Mammburu, a spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, said by phone. Legally workers are not permitted to strike because the power producer is considered to provide an essential service.

“So far we have relative calm at our power stations, unlike yesterday where people were being blocked” from reporting for duty, Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom spokesman, said by phone from Johannesburg on Friday. “Today we do have some people who are back at their posts.”

The unions are waiting to hear from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration about the next steps after the dispute was referred to mediation, Mammburu said.

“We are not on strike,” Phakamile Hlubi, a spokeswoman for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, said late Thursday. The unions delivered a memorandum to Eskom headquarters earlier in the day demanding a 15 percent salary increase.

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