Be a hope to the masses, in particular the working class and the poor. Your recent utterances and your reckless statement on Eskom’s looming retrenchment of 30,000 workers has left a bitter taste for the working class.
In his address at the job summit two weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that unemployment is the greatest challenge facing the country at this moment. He reiterated that unemployment diminishes the country’s ability to eradicate poverty, tackle inequality and improve the lives of the working class and the poor.
The President proposed that in avoiding retrenchments there should be agreement between the social partners (government, business and labour) that all possible alternatives and opportunities need to be explored before retrenchment is considered, including executive salary sacrifices and the foregoing of dividends.
The labour movement’s warning to you is that cutting down the size of the public service is a bigger adventure, which may prove to be risky for the ANC before next year’s elections.
The dire jobs situation is reflected in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey released by Statistics South Africa for the second quarter of 2018. It shows that despite growth in employment of 206,000 jobs during the second quarter, the rate of unemployment was 27.2%. Furthermore, the unemployment rate of young people was at 52.4% and an absorption rate of only 12.2%.
As the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), we can no longer hide our displeasure. To announce the possibility of reducing Eskom workers without consulting trade unions organising in that sector is unlawful and reckless.
The union’s position is that the problem of Eskom does not have to do with a bloated structure. The biggest problem among others is the Power Purchase Agreements that were signed by the government. The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers (REIPPs) are milking Eskom of millions of rands. Eskom is buying electricity from the REIPPs for R2.14 and selling it at 89 cents. This arrangement is clearly unsustainable.
Our appeal to you Comrade Minister is that you must firstly clean up the mishap in the management of Eskom before destroying jobs of Eskom workers who are currently facing dire economic difficulties. The fairy-tale that the power utility is bloated is a negative narrative from the people who want to privatise Eskom through the back door.
The NUM takes a view that says essential service employees cannot be retrenched and we will not allow Eskom to proceed.
The minister must further deal with the issue of municipal debt. Eskom is owed more than R13-billion by municipalities. The minister must come up with a strategy to assist Eskom to get this money from the municipalities before he issues reckless and unfounded statements. DM
Luphert Chilwane is the Media Officer at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)