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SAFTU supports Eskom workers

The South African Federation of Trade Unions pledges its solidarity with the workers at Eskom in their ongoing dispute over wages, bonuses and the danger of privatisation.

The federation insists that the workers at Eskom deserve their bonuses and must not be denied them to pay for the corruption, theft and mismanagement of Eskom’s directors, executives and management.

The workers have kept Eskom functioning despite the sabotage by their bosses.  As our affiliate NUMSA says: “It is a fact that workers performed and met their key performance indicators. Its dismal financial performance is because of mismanagement and looting, and not because of the performance of ordinary workers. Our members are being punished for the failures of senior executive management.”

The workers should be rewarded, not punished!

The federation also agrees that real culprits for Eskom’s financial crisis – those responsible for R19.6 Billion in irregular expenditure – must be disciplined and punished, and we welcome the 1 049 disciplinary cases against those facing allegations of corruption and that an additional 628 cases have been finalised.

SAFTU fully supports the call for a cleaner and healthier environment, but insists that moving from coal to renewable energy must be done in a way that is in the interest of workers in the energy sector, electricity consumers and communities affected by climate change.

But the government’s energy policy is self-contradictory. It has made all the right noises about reducing carbon emissions and generating electricity from renewable sources but is planning to do this by privatizing this process to big multinational independent power producers (IPP) companies who want to exploit these new sources of power just to make profits.

NUMSA is rightly disgusted by the assertion by Jabu Mauza, Eskom’s board chairperson, that the outsourcing to IPPs is cost neutral to Eskom This is contradicted by its own financial results report which clearly states that, “the decision to sign power purchase agreements with the IPPs has significant implications for our financial sustainability.”

“It is ridiculous and reckless therefore for Mr Mabuza to suggest that renewable IPP’s are cost neutral”, says NUMSA. The IPPs are simply a money-making scheme at the expense of tax payers’ money and there can be no doubt there are no jobs and no quality jobs that will be derived out of IPPs. In fact, IPPs deliver uncompetitive, expensive electricity tariffs and they can only destroy jobs and chase investment away.”

NUMSA predicts that outsourcing to IPPs will ultimately destroy around 92 000 jobs in Mpumalanga Province alone. Thousands of families will suffer poverty and unemployment, in a nation already with 36% unemployment, jobs disappearing daily and more than half the population living in abject poverty.

It is true that in the long run even more jobs will be lost from doing nothing to avert the destruction of the environment but the transition to sustainable and safe forms of energy generation must not be at the expense of existing jobs, but in line with the ILO “Guidelines for a Just Transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all”, which demands that:

“Sustainable development is only possible with the active engagement of the world of work. Governments, employers, and workers are not passive bystanders, but rather agents of change, who are able to develop new ways of working that safeguard the environment, for present and future generations, eradicate poverty and promote social justice by fostering sustainable enterprises, and creating decent work for all.”

Our challenge is not only to save existing jobs but to use the environmental crisis as a way to create new well-paid and permanent jobs for workers to assist with measures to create a safe and healthy environment.

This will never be achieved it the transition is handed to privatised companies who are only motivated by the greed for profit.

SAFTU stands firmly in agreement with NUMSA’s decision to reject privatisation of Eskom in any form. “Privatisation in a capitalist mode of production,” says the union “is and will remain the enemy of the working class majority. It doesn’t matter how the agents of capital try to couch it, privatization of Eskom will be disastrous for the working class majority and it must be stopped.”

The federation calls on all its affiliates, other trade unions, electricity consumers, communities and all the South African people to demand that Eskom pay workers their bonuses!

If Eskom refuse to accept the absolutely justified demands of the unions, and if their members vote to take strike action, SAFTU pledges its full support and urges all workers to stand ready to organize solidarity action, because a victory for the Eskom bosses will be a setback not just for Eskom workers but the working class as a whole.