The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns in the strongest terms Eskom’s decision to retrench workers. Our members at Megawatt park staged a lunchtime picket together with members of the NUM on Wednesday. the purpose of the demonstration was to express our anger at Eskom, the board and government the shareholder for unilaterally taking a decision to retrench workers without consulting unions. We condemn Eskom, the board as well as the ANC government for retrenching workers at Eskom!
Retrenchments are just the beginning. We know that the ultimate goal is to break Eskom into parts and privatize it and other SOE’s. This was confirmed by the Deputy Minister of Energy in an interview with BBC’s Hard Talk in October last year. Thembisile Majola told the host of the show that privatization of Eskom was on the table and that it must be ‘unbundled’ and broken into parts.
Throughout 2018, NUMSA fought against a collaborated agenda to destroy and to privatize Eskom. This premeditated agenda was initiated by Minister Jeff Radebe who worked hand in glove with the current board, as well as the new Eskom management led by the GCEO, Phakamani Hadebe.
JEFF RADEBE AND PRAVIN GORDHAN COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT JOB LOSSES CAUSED BY IPP’S
NUMSA’s experience of this new board and management has been one that left the union consistently shocked and dismayed in that their leadership style. Together with Jeff Radebe and Pravin Gordon, the board and the shareholder are anti-Eskom. This has been demonstrated by their reckless pursuit of governments disastrous Renewable Energy program, which is the independent Power Producer Program (IPP). Eskom’s own studies, showed that that if Eskom continues with the project it would lead to the closure of five power stations, threatening the job security of at least ninety-two thousand workers and their families. These job losses have since been confirmed by a CSIR study. In spite of this, they continued anyway. We regard them as an IPP board because they are hell bent on rolling out this project, in spite of the dire consequences for hundreds of thousands of families in the province of Mpumalanga. They have no regard for the crisis of unemployment which would be created as result of this decision. The IPP agreements were signed without a social plan in place for the province of Mpumalanga, whose economy is almost entirely dependent on the presence of the coal fired power stations. And yet the Eskom management and the two ministers, Pravin Gordhan, Public Enterprises minister, and Jeff Radebe of the Energy, couldn’t have cared less.
ESKOM BLACKOUTS ARE RUSE TO JUSTIFY PRIVATIZATION
It is this very same leadership who have demonstrated to the public that they are clueless. They have absolutely no idea of how to run Eskom and its power stations and their ineptitude is the reason we are subjected to systematic blackouts, euphemistically called, “loadshedding”. These blackouts began in 2008 and as recently as late last year Eskom implemented rolling blackouts all over the country. They are detrimental to the economy. We have lost billions in revenue which we can never recover. In 2008 Eskom was mired in a scandal when it emerged that one of its executives personally benefitted from these black outs through the increased cost of coal. The leadership of Eskom has a history of abusing this process for its own selfish benefit.
We are convinced that load shedding was unnecessary and a ruse to prepare the country for the privatization of Eskom. At 23% reserve margin, which is higher than the 19% required by the National Energy Regulator, there should have been no need for load shedding. NUMSA also rejects the assertion by the public enterprises minister that current load shedding incidents are caused by elements of a third force working with former executives. This leadership of Eskom and its board is clearly inept and they are determined to collapse Eskom in favour of the IPPs.
THE LOOTING OF ESKOM COST PLUS MINES IS STATE CAPTURE
We told Eskom leadership that what destroys Eskom is looting, which in our view is be state capture. This looting is centered on coal procurement from white monopoly capital who run and manage all of Eskom’s Cost Plus Mines. These mines have been paid for by the national fiscus. This means that they are owned and must be controlled by South African people, but the hard painful truth is that they make white owned companies like South32, EXXARO, Glencore, filthy rich. What is worse, between 2008 and 2015, the cost of one ton of coal purchased by Eskom increased by 17% year on year. Cumulatively, they imposed increases which were over 400 per cent, against inflation of 74 per cent. These companies then filled their pockets and this corruption was knowingly enabled by Eskom executives. This is the real state capture that is persistently swept under the carpet.
It is the very leadership of the Eskom board and Eskom management that took a very stupid and provocative decision to offer a zero per cent wage increase to workers, when in fact, it was ordinary workers who were doing their best to keep the lights on. Our members gave their all to ensure that the power utility continued to operate, in spite of the shenanigans of the board, the management and the state. The management even had the audacity to deny workers their well-deserved bonus after they improved production and performance. It took NUMSA and other unions to sober them up and push them to make a fair offer in the best interests of workers, including paying workers their hard earned bonuses. This poor, hopeless demonstration of leadership led to NUMSA and NUM embarking on a picket today, and last year, we marched and handed over a memorandum of demands.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
We have made it clear that if they are serious about turning the SOE around they must do the following:
- They must dismiss all corrupt ring leaders who continue to run amok at Medupi and Kusile power stations immediately. The cost overruns of the build project are evidence that massive corruption took place. Contracts were inflated for the benefit of suppliers linked to Eskom executives. They must also recover every cent which was misspent, either through mismanagement or corruption by current and former Eskom executives.
- They must cancel the IPP project which is proof that the plan is to sabotage Eskom to enable privatization. Eskom buys a unit of electricity from the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer at R2,12 when it can produce it at less than 50 cents and then sells it to the public at 89 cents. What kind of cock-eyed business strategy is that? It is designed to fail, and this is why Eskom is permanently broke!
- We demand that the board of Eskom and all SOE’s should be scrapped and replaced with people who actually care about Eskom’s future and in its survival. The board should be made up of representatives from unions, community organizations, business and the state. For more than two decades the ANC led government has been appointing its corrupt cronies to the board in order to facilitate looting of the SOE. We are suffering because SOE’s are being used as the personal piggy bank of the politically connected ANC elite, and are not operating in the interests of the working class majority.
- We demand that all plans to privatize Eskom be scrapped. We must keep all our SOES, especially Eskom in the hands of the state. Electricity is already very costly for the working class majority, privatization will worsen this, thus entrenching inequality. It will also result in huge job losses.
- They must halt all retrenchment processes. No one can be retrenched without unions being consulted. The National Leadership of NUMSA must urgently meet with Eskom board to get clarity on all these issues, in particular retrenchments.
We will continue to unite the working class to defend Eskom and all other SOE’s. We will be calling an urgent meeting with NUM, SAFTU, COSATU, and the leadership of AMCU to propose that all unions and their federations must stand together to defend Eskom and our country’s SOEs against this government privatization. If need be, we should be planning a national strike in defense of our members’ jobs and the future of South African economy. Any sober person knows that the future of South Africa is in manufacturing and industrialization. For this, we need Eskom, and all SOE’s to remain in the hands of the state and deliver a competitive electricity tariff, something that remains impossible once Eskom falls into private hands, as it would be driven by profit at the expense of the people of South Africa.
The Struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA General Secretary
For more information, please contact:
NUMSA National Spokesperson