On 24 October 2019 Solidarity issued a letter of demand to Eskom insisting that the power giant withdraw the unfair dismissal of Johan Dempers, a project manager at the Matimba and Medupi power stations by 29 October 2019. This comes after Dempers was dismissed on 18 October 2019 from Eskom Rotek’s service without any warning.
Anton van der Bijl, head of Solidarity’s legal services, contends that after the coal conveyor belt had broken down on 12 October, leading to the recent power cuts, Mr Dempers was told to supervise repairs to the conveyor belt. As part of the emergency measures implemented while the conveyor belt was being repaired 1 500 tonnes of coal had to be trucked to the power station.
According to Van der Bijl, Eskom Rotek argues that Mr Dempers failed to supply the 1 500 tonnes of coal per hour to Medupi as per their instruction and then, when he saw that the targets would not be met, he failed to report the matter to senior management. “It is shocking, to say the least. Mr Dempers was dismissed without any warning for something that was not his responsibility, and this despite the fact that he performed his duty of supervising the repairs of the conveyor belt resolutely and in an excellent way,” Van der Bijl said.
“It is unfortunate that it has become a trend that mismanaged state enterprises use their employees as pawns to try and conceal their own incompetence. In this instance we are dealing with a case where our member did far more than was expected of him, and he is now made the scapegoat for the recent power cuts,” Van der Bijl said.
Van der Bijl furthermore said that if Eskom Rotek has not withdrawn Mr Dempers’s dismissal by Tuesday 29 October Solidarity will have no choice but to take urgent legal steps. “We believe and trust that Eskom Rotek would then be taught a lesson in court,” Van der Bijl concluded.