We want guarantees that Eskom workers won’t be retrenched – Cosatu | Fin24
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We want guarantees that Eskom workers won’t be retrenched – Cosatu

Oct 30 2019 11:48
Lameez Omarjee

The special paper on Eskom is silent on job security, said the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Cosatu's parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks on Tueday issued a statement reacting to the paper released by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The paper is a roadmap for the future of Eskom, collaboratively developed by various government departments and academics. It is in line with the Integrated Resources Plan, which promotes a diversified energy mix for the country. It also outlines how government plans to unbundle the power utility into three entities – transmission, generation and distribution - which will fall under Eskom Holdings by the end of 2022.

The paper lays out proposals for turning around the power utility's dire financial position through cost-saving measures. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is expected to make announcements at the medium-term budget addressing Eskom's R450bn debt. 

The plan also acknowledges the need for a just transition, which will ensure that communities and Eskom workers are not negatively impacted through the unbundling process and as the power utility moves away from fossil fuels to alternative, cleaner energy sources.

Cosatu however regards the paper as a "draft" and wants to engage with government and other social partners within the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

Parks said the labour federation and its affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will not be "bulldozed" into accepting a roadmap that does not address workers' concerns about their jobs, communities, energy affordability and security of supply.

"The pape''s silence about job security and a lack of a commitment not to retrench workers is extremely worrying and is condemned in the strongest possible terms by Cosatu and NUM," Parks said.

He added that the paper lacks clarity on the unbundling of Eskom. "Government has not shown how this will reduce costs or improve efficiency.

"Labour's fear is that in fact it may increase costs by requiring more CEOs, management and boards. Workers fear that it may lead to full-blown retrenchments and privatisation through the back door.

Retrenchments could cause 'massive strikes'

"Any attempts to retrench workers will lead to massive strikes by not only NUM but the entire federation and its affiliates," Parks warned.

But there were some parts of the paper Cosatu supported –  such as interventions by government to ensure independent power producers and coal suppliers sell their generation and coal at affordable prices to Eskom, Parks said.

While Pravin Gordhan told journalists at a briefing on the paper that a new CEO would be announced next week, Parks said it is an "indictment" that one of the most important state-owned enterprises in the country has been without a CEO for six months.

"There are significant gaps and weaknesses in the paper. Cosatu and NUM however will be engaging government on addressing these key issues and in particular to ensure no worker is retrenched and the survival of Eskom," Parks said. The engagements will take place through Nedlac and the tripartite alliance, he added.

Meanwhile, energy expert Chris Yelland said the paper is a good starting point to for Eskom to move forward. He acknowledged that details might have to be filled in along the way, but stressed it’s important not to create any delays in effecting a turnaround at the power utility. "If we don't start now, we won't be finished in five years' time or 10 years' time," Yelland told Fin24 by phone.



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