A large number of member companies have contacted SEIFSA over the last few days regarding Eskom’s current load shedding programme. Eskom resumed load shedding after experiencing technical difficulties at a number of generating units, coupled with a low generation capacity reserve margin.
Many areas have experienced load shedding twice a day, for up to two-and-a-half hours and more at a time, as Eskom needs to reduce demand for electricity in order to stabilise the electricity system nationally.
Eskom currently finds itself in a position where the demand for electricity exceeds the available supply. In order to manage the situation in the best possible way, planned supply interruptions have been implemented.
Employers who receive their electricity directly from Eskom will find information of possible outages on www.eskom.co.za. Employers who are supplied by their local municipalities, however, will have to obtain load shedding information from the municipal electricity departments.
WHAT IS LOAD SHEDDING?
When there is not enough electricity available to meet the demand from all Eskom’s customers, it will be necessary to interrupt supply to certain areas. This is called load shedding.
Load shedding is:
- A last-resort measure. Only when all other options at Eskom’s disposal have been exhausted, such as running its power stations at maximum capacity and interrupting supply to industrial customers with special contracts, will Eskom cut supply to other customers.
- A controlled way of rotating the available electricity between all customers. Load shedding schedules are drawn up to ensure that a few areas do not bear the brunt of the shortages. By spreading the impact, affected areas are not interrupted for more than two hours at a time, and in most cases customers can be informed of interruptions in advance.
- An effective way to avoid blackouts. Shortages on the electricity system unbalance the network, which can cause it to collapse. By rotating the load in a planned and controlled manner, the system remains stable.
SEIFSA recommends that affiliated member companies adopt the following course of action, informed by Section 7 of the Main Agreement, in dealing with load shedding:
- If Eskom cuts power and Management takes a decision to send employees home, then employees must be paid a minimum of 4 hours pay.
- Should Management require employees to remain at work until the power supply is restored, then employees must be paid in full.
- Regardless of the fact that Management has sent employees home, they will still be credited with a shift for the purposes of Leave Pay and Leave Enhancement Pay calculations.
Possible scenarios (examples):
In all of the examples, it is important to note that employees do not lose a shift for the purpose of calculating Leave Pay and Leave Enhancement Pay.
- Employees have clocked in and have worked for two (2) hours when the power supply is cut off, and is unlikely to be restored. Management decides to send employees home: Payment: for four (4) hours of work.
- Employees have clocked in and have worked for six (6) hours when the power supply is cut off and is unlikely to be restored. Management decides to send employees home: Payment: for six (6) hours of work.
- Employees have clocked in and have worked for three (3) hours when the power supply is cut off, and will remain off for two hours. Employees are not sent home, and resume work with the return of power: Payment: for full shift
In addition to the above, SEIFSA recommends that Management explores the possibility of arranging mutually acceptable alternative working-in time arrangements to the load shedding by, for example, reaching agreement with employees and shop stewards to make up for lost hours over week-ends, clocking in early, working longer, agreeing that hours lost between the load shedding and the restoration of power be treated on the basis of no work, no pay, etc.
Members should feel free to discuss any course of action with SEIFSA’s Industrial Relations and Legal Services Division staff members, who are available to provide advice or assistance to Management in this regard. They can be reached on (011) 298-9400.