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Rival unions ready to team up against Eskom

Mar 13 2017 10:02
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Rival unions are reaching out to each other to unite against Eskom’s decision to close five coal power stations within five years.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said he wants to engage with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on this issue.

“For the sake of the workers, we need to put our ideological differences aside to formulate a united strategy to fight this attack on workers,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu welcomed the move. He told Fin24 on Monday that “NUM won’t have a problem with Numsa”.

“Workers must combine to fight a common enemy – the Eskom board – who wants to privatise Eskom.

“The general secretary of NUM will have to speak to the general secretary of Numsa,” he said. “We have had good working relations with Numsa. We are not enemies at all. Workers are not enemies.”

While NUM is one of the biggest unions of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Numsa was expelled from the federation in November 2014. This came after Jim and Numsa sided with expelled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi in not supporting the ANC in the 2014 general election.

The union is part of Vavi’s New Trade Union Federation, which has 21 signed-up unions, representing a total of 684 865 workers. It is now the country’s second-largest labour grouping.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 last week that at least two units of Komati power station have already been shut down to create space for the renewable energy projects.

“Other power stations that will be gradually shut down over the next five years are Camden, Kriel, and Hendrina,” he said.

Criticising the move, Jim said at least 6 000 workers' jobs are on the line.

“Numsa wants to place it on record that no consultation took place between the board of Eskom and the trade unions,” he said. “Furthermore, as Numsa we are convinced that the lack of consultation demonstrates that there is an attempt to hide the real reasons for this drastic course of action. 

“Eskom is well aware that if it has plans to end jobs or retrench workers, it must follow due process which includes declaring Section 189 so that proper retrenchment processes can take place. This has not happened.”

Numsa 'prepared to plunge SA into darkness'

“Numsa has been engaging workers on the ground to establish the next course of action. If necessary we will go on strike and if that means plunging the country into darkness, then that is the strategy we must adopt.

“As Numsa we will do whatever is legally necessary to defend the thousands of jobs which are at stake.”

Jim said Numsa is consulting with lawyers to establish if it has any legal recourse “to deal with the latest onslaught against workers and their families”.

Mammburu said its NUM members at Eskom are planning the details of its strike, and that it will provide further information in due course.

Phasiwe told Fin24 that the decision to sign on renewable independent power producers is government policy and Eskom is implementing it.

"Our government’s broader plan is to have an energy mix that consists of coal, renewables, gas, nuclear, biomass and other available energy sources as envisaged in the existing Integrated Resource Plan.

"Our aim as a nation is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using less coal and introducing new technologies.  

"Over the next five years, coal transported on the road by trucks will be reduced from 40.4 million tonnes per annum to 15.6 million tonnes per annum."

num  |  eskom  |  numsa  |  strike


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