Shrinking economy – a catastrophe for workers and poor
June 6, 2018
THE WORST BETRAYAL OF PUBLIC SERVANTS – 2018 PSCBC AGREEMENT
June 12, 2018

SAFTU condemns Eskom’s war on its workers!

Workers must not pay the price for Eskom’s mismanagement and corruption


Eskom has been brought to the brink of bankruptcy as a result of appalling levels of corruption, mismanagement and waste. It has been looted by corrupt criminals and run up massive debts.

The new board ought be pursuing those responsible for plundering Eskom’s resources and suing them to retrieve the stolen money. Instead they are now trying to force their workers to pay the price for these people’s own criminality and incompetence by launching a ferocious triple attack on workers’ living standards and jobs.

They are demanding that the workers accept:

  • A zero percent wage offer, which in real terms means a wage cut
  • The loss of over 10 000 jobs
  • The privatisation of electricity generation to independent power producers

This is nothing less than a declaration war on the workers! There were even Nyala armoured vehicles parked at the venue of the Bargaining Council and private security staff all over the vicinity.

This is reminiscent of Marikana, when, before the massacre police were mobilized to intimidate strikers! The difference is that Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a director of Lonmin, is now the president of the country

The South African Federation of Trade Unions strongly condemns these terror tactics and the attempts to intimidate the unions, and pledges its full support for the Eskom workers in their life-and-death struggle to defeat these attacks and calls upon all workers to prepare to march and fight in solidarity with their fellow workers.

Wages

The second round of wage negotiations began on 6 June 2018, and the employer is offering a ‘0% wage increase’. It is not an increase at all; it is a big cut in real wages!

The latest figure for inflation for the year ending in March 2018 is 4.5%. Many items have risen by much more then that; meat prices rose by 9%, school fees by 7.7% and water services by 7.2%.

A zero percent increase means the same wage level agreed last year has to stretch to cover all these increased costs over than year. Every worker will be poorer.

This will be made even worse, as this 4.5% increase in inflation does not include the most recent price and tax increases, including the record rise in the price of fuel and paraffin, and all the tax increases in VAT, the fuel levy, the road accident fund levy, the “sin taxes” on drinks and cigarettes, the sugar tax. These are all pushing up the rates of inflation even further and devaluing the workers’ wages.

This offer must be rejected with contempt. The bosses are brazenly trying to force this wage cut through ink the  that as ‘essential service workers’, Eskom staff will not be able legally to strike. They are attempting to blackmail them with the threat of dismissal if they do.

Retrenchments

Eskom are also hep-benton cutting jobs. Its 2017 annual report stated that it plans to reduce its staff from the 47 658 they currently employ to 36,746 by 2021/22. This means that 10 912 jobs are in jeopardy,  another way to try to blackmail them into accepting the 0% deal.

SAFTU totally rejects Eskom’s via the its crisis is the result of employing too many workers, who must now pay the ultimate price for the crisis they did not create.

It is unfortunate therefore that it has support from Sikonathi Mantshantsha, the deputy editor of the Financial Mail. He has done excellent work in exposing the rot in Eskom and other state-owned enterprises, but SAFTU totally rejects his arguments, in an article in Business Day entitled “Eskom has no option but to shed its bloated staff load”.

He argues “That Eskom has approached its wage negotiations season with an offer to not increase salaries in 2018 is absolutely the correct position for an organisation with its kind of problems. For many years it has not been generating enough cash to pay salaries and fund its operating needs.

“Freezing wage increases is just the start of what the state-owned company needs to do, as it borrows money to pay debt and salaries… Today, Eskom employs 47,658 people to generate less than 47,000MW of power… For Eskom to survive it needs to immediately retrench all the 16,000 people it unnecessarily employed a few years ago — about 33% of the workforce. The trade unions that represent them — the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Solidarity and the National Union of Mineworkers — also need to realise that killing Eskom with unaffordable wage demands will impoverish all their members sooner than they think.”

This argument is based on the capitalist ideology, espoused by the Financial Mail and big business. that puts profitability before everything else, including the fate of thousands of workers and their families. SAFTU will never agree that 16 000 skilled and experienced workers must be thrown on to the streets to join the millions of the unemployed, just to rescue Eskom from its crisis.

Privatisation and IPPs

Even more jobs will be lost following the announcement by energy ministerJeff Radebe that the government is to privatise more electricity generation from renewable sources, to private capitalist independent power producers

SAFTU is in favour of using the sun, wind and water to generate electricity and reduce the reliance of coal, which is both non-renewable and harmful to the environment and the health of the people around coal-fired power stations.  But this must be done in a way that protects the livelihoods of energy and mining workers and the lives of people in communities most affected by environmental pollution.

Radebe’s plans will do the opposite. On top of the jobs Eskom already wants to cut there will be 40 000 mining jobs lost, as mines, mostly in Mpumalanga, are closed, so that private companies can make profits.

SAFTU cannot agree with the minister’s statement that IPPs will create 61 000 jobs. Most existing renewable energy companies do not employ many workers, when compared to Eskom, and do not offer the same salaries, benefits or improved working conditions.

The workers must not have to pay the price for their bosses’ irresponsibility, by losing their jobs in mines and power stations, as a result of handing over power generation to IPP companies who are only interested in the bottom line.

Conclusion

The fact that Eskom and the governmental are simultaneously going for a wage cut, announcing that over 10 000 jobs are to be cut and bringing in private companies to generate electricity points to only one conclusion – that they are moving towards the privatization of Eskom altogether.
SAFTU sys NO. Electricity generation is a vital public service, supplying power to the people, in industry, schools, hospitals and homes. Its mandate has to be to provide that service as efficiently and cheaply as possible and with the minimum damage the environment. This will be impossible if it is owned and run as a business by private commercial companies.

It must stay in public hands and be democratically run by and in the interests of the people, not as a way to make profits. The Eskom board should be reconstituted with members of civil society, labour, business and government. This will enable the board to clean out all the corrupt and incompetent managers and introduce a culture of transparency and good governance which is so desperately needed.
SAFTU calls for maximum unity amongst all formations of the working class. We must call for end to isolated struggles and reiterate that we seek to knit all the struggles against the job loss blood bath, like the one that Eskom is planning, with the struggles to protect our environment.