SAFTU calls on workers join march for Eskom jobs and against privatisaton
The South African Federation of Trade Unions calls on workers to join the march to the Union Buildings by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Saturday 17 November to protest against retrenchments at Eskom, the closure of coal mines and government’s renewable energy program – the Independent Power Producer Project.
SAFTU fully shares the unions’ concern that the government is hellbent on the privatisation of energy generation to capitalist companies and supports NUMSA’s call for the social ownership of the renewable energy project.
The federation supports using renewable resources – 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 “just transition” to environmentally friendly energy generation, in a way that protects the jobs of mining and energy workers and the lives of communities most affected by environmental pollution and does not disadvantage the next generation.
The government’s plans, as championed by Minster Jeff Radebe, will do the opposite. Privatisation of energy generation to independent power producers (IPPs) will worsen the conditions for the working class.
In a country with 37.5% jobless and more than half the population living in abject poverty, we must not lose even more jobs!
Workers and poor communities are being asked to pay the price for an environmental crisis for which they bear no responsibility. It is not the workers but the capitalist system which has caused global warming, climate change and the destruction of our ecosystem.
Privatisation will not only not resolve this crisis but make it even worse. Private companies which are only interested in making profits, will do nothing to help the workers whose jobs disappear.
SAFTU backs the statement made by NUMSA in 2012, that in order to prevent the “just transition” being another capitalist concept, “the path to a low-carbon economy must be based on worker-controlled, democratic social ownership of key means of production and means of subsistence. There is a need for long term collective planning of wealth and production and how needs are met”.
NUMSA’s has summarised the following specific reasons for saying NO to privatisation of energy generation to IPPs:
1. The IPPs are designed to collapse Eskom! It costs Eskom 40c per kWh to produce electricity through nuclear, and the cost from coal is less than R1. But Eskom pays R2,22 from IPPs which it then sells to the consumer at 85c. What kind of nonsensical, impractical arrangement is this? It is obvious that the state is deliberately trying to collapse Eskom! It is our duty as the working class to defend this valuable SOE. Eskom should go back to its mandate of ensuring that the entire nation is electrified. It should be providing free electricity for all, and affordable electricity for industry.
2. The IPPs will result in at least 92 000 jobs being lost! To accommodate the IPP program the state must close five coal-fired power stations in Mpumalanga. This will have a devastating impact on the local economy of the province, as its industries depend on the existence of the power stations.
3. We reject calls for privatization of Eskom and state-owned enterprises and disturbing comments by members of the governing party, in particular the Finance minister Tito Mboweni who calls for the restructuring of SOEs and in particular, the configuration of Eskom. Mboweni proposed in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, that Eskom should be broken up, by separating different units, namely, generation, transmission and distribution. We reject privatization as it will mean that that electricity costs will skyrocket, making electricity less accessible to the poor and working class, and, increasing the cost of doing business.
4. We reject retrenchments! The working class is under attack from the governing party. Whilst it is true that many SOEs are in financial crisis, these are problems which were deliberately created to destroy the capacity of the SOE’s in order to pursue an agenda to privatize SOEs. Eskom was a victim of gross mismanagement, and looting by some senior executive managers and the board. But instead of them taking responsibility, Eskom management, together with the government, are punishing workers for their failures. The sale of SOE’s is another way for the ANC and its capitalist cronies to benefit financially, at the expense of the working class.
SAFTU’s view is in line with the ILO’s “Guidelines for a Just Transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all”, which state 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.”
The South African government and Radebe have not followed these principles. They, and their private partners in the IPP project, are disregarding the spirit and letter of the ILO guidelines towards a just transition with regard to workers and communities.
SAFFU has welcomed the idea of a Red-Green Alliance between workers and environmentalists, but fully agree with Professor Jacklyn Cock, an authority on both labour and environmental issues, that “The labour movement must own the process, undertake research on alternative job creation and Rormulate clear demands on the state. It must challenge dominant conceptions of a just transition that re-packages capitalism through notions like the “green economy”, or “green capitalism.”
As NUMSA has said: “It is in our class interests to unite and fight back against this vicious attack by the state on the working class. This is a battle for our survival and this is why we believe that unity of the working class on this issue is paramount.”
The march will take place on Saturday 17 November, gathering at Burgers Park in Pretoria at 11:00 am.