THE National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) have both officially rejected Eskom’s 0% wage offer, saying the state-owned power utility cannot plead poverty because it is ‘dealing with a self-imposed crisis’.
Last week, wage negotiations at Eskom collapsed after the unions walked out, saying the power utility was negotiating in bad faith. The unions are demanding a 15% wage increase across the board and R2,000 housing allowance increase, among other demands.
Numsa’s Irvin Jim said: ‘On what basis can the CEOs receive the huge salaries that they continue to receive? ‘They don’t negotiate to get their luxurious salaries that are exorbitant, they just impose it on themselves, but suddenly if you’re an Eskom worker, you get told that you deserve no salary increase.’
The unions staged a lunchtime demonstration at Eskom’s headquarters last Thursday (7th June), while union officials demanded an urgent meeting with the Eskom board, energy minister and the president.
Joint statement from the NUM and NUMSA: ‘Eskom management and the Eskom board have demonstrated that they do not care about workers or their families. ‘On the one hand, the state has adopted an austerity budget that is attacking workers through VAT and fuel price increases; whilst on the other hand, Eskom is denying workers their well-deserved wage increase.
‘Workers at Eskom are facing an onslaught from all sides. ‘We are guided by the Marxist slogan “Workers of the world unite you have got nothing to lose except your chains!” The NUM and NUMSA leadership are clear that workers united can never be defeated. ‘We met yesterday and our revolutionary consciousness makes us recognise that without the unity of workers we can never achieve our goals.
‘It is for this reason that we have taken the decision to put aside our political differences and to unite against a common enemy whose agenda, is the super exploitation of workers at Eskom. ‘We remain opposed and reject all measures which will lead to the destruction of Eskom through privatisation. That is why we are making a clarion call to all workers both black and white to stand together and we remain convinced that it’s not just the unity of NUMSA and NUM alone which is critical and important.
‘We remain resolute that Solidarity as a union should find the courage to join the resolute fighting ranks of NUM and NUMSA and that collectively as unions that represent workers we must stand together to defend all the hard-won gains of workers and to fight to improve benefits and conditions of all workers.’
REASONS WHY ESKOM PLEADS POVERTY ‘It is no secret that Eskom is in serious financial trouble. It has huge debt levels as a result of the building programme; it is owed millions in outstanding municipal debt; it is haemorrhaging money because of the impact of the Independent Power Producer Project (IPP); and it has wasted billions through mismanagement, looting and alleged corruption.
‘Eskom is dealing with a self-imposed crisis by the unholy alliance of the Minister of Energy, together with the Eskom Board and the management of Eskom. By implementing, the signing of the IPPs onto the national grid, they acted against the interests of the Company and the broader public. This decision and many others are unpacked here below:
‘1. Eskom is hugely indebted as a result of the debt it accumulated from the IMF and the World Bank loans to build new power stations. It is unfair for workers to be punished for the reckless decision of government as a shareholder and the Eskom board and Eskom management. ‘The Eskom board volunteered themselves to be an accomplice in supporting the Independent Power Producer’s (IPP’s) and placing them onto our national grid. This decision is destroying Eskom’s market and at the same time it is shooting up the already uncompetitive electricity tariff. Both NUMSA and NUM reject the signing of the IPPs at the expense of a workers increase, and at the expense of their job security.
We demand a socially owned renewable energy sector where workers and the community will be direct beneficiaries of the project. We demand a Just Transition which will ensure that workers at coal-fired power plants who may lose their jobs as a result of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, will be trained and absorbed into the renewable energy sector. We cannot solve the problem of climate change by exacerbating joblessness.
Eskom in its own research commissioned by KPMG in 2017 found that at least 92,000 jobs would be lost if the five coal-fired power stations in Mpumalanga are closed to make way for IPPs. This is why we regard the decision by the minister as reckless in the extreme because he clearly has no regard for the negative impact that this project will have on workers and on society at large. The reckless decision to finalise these contracts will be challenged in court by NUMSA, and the NUM has applied to go on strike over the IPP project. As far as we are concerned the IPPs are nothing more than another form of state capture!
‘2. Eskom has wasted billions through mismanagement and alleged corruption. It is a fact that the Eskom management and board has been at the forefront of these scandals. Not one rand has been recovered, and none of the executives fingered in alleged corruption have been arrested. We demand that all monies which were lost through mismanagement or alleged looting be recovered. Until this is done, we will continue to reject their claims of poverty.
‘3. Eskom is failing to manage the cost of primary coal which has been escalating. As a result of Eskom’s failure to manage the cost of over 3 mines that were ceded to the private sector, they lost their competitive advantage on electricity which is so crucial for the industrialisation of our country, and the creation of quality jobs that must pay a living wage.
‘4. It’s a fact that Eskom does have a challenge of a high wage bill but that can’t be blamed or attributed to poor workers who are lowest earners. Eskom has a top-heavy structure. It has an abnormal worker to manager ratio. Some senior managers do not have any workers reporting to them and they have been rewarding themselves with generous bonuses. ‘There are also high numbers of consultants who are employed to do the same work that is done by Eskom workers. To put the record straight in 2001, Eskom at that time was performing well and effectively managed by 80 executives.
‘Today this top structure of executive has become bloated to about over 500 top executives. These people are paid exorbitant salaries that are destroying the cash flow of this institution. Their average income is about R800,000 and above per annum. We demand that Eskom drastically reduce the top management structure in order to save costs.’
WHAT IS TO BE DONE ‘Last week Eskom declared a deadlock after negotiating in complete bad faith. We are left with absolutely no option but to follow the law to the letter to declare a dispute of interest against Eskom management. Solidarity has also decided to declare the same dispute of interest. ‘We celebrate this unanimous decision by all unions to take a stand against Eskom as a brutal and hostile employer.
‘We will exhaust all options available to us legally before resorting to go on strike. We have scheduled pickets during lunchtime in different parts of the country where workers will demonstrate their disgust with Eskom for their provocative stance. On Thursday 14th there will be a big demonstration taking place at Megawatt park during lunch.
‘As workers we are resolute in our demands. Whilst we appreciate some of the challenges confronting Eskom we demand that Eskom must come to the negotiations table with an intention to negotiate. Furthermore, we demand an urgent meeting with the Eskom Board, the President of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe. We demand that they meet with all three unions with speed to resolve the current impasse between Eskom and unions and give workers their deserve wage increase.’ ‘Aluta continua! ‘The struggle continues!’ Issued by trade unions NUM and NUMSA.