THE South African NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) has said it will march on the imminent meeting of the ANC National Executive Council, as the union is opposed to the ‘unbundling’ of South Africa’s Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom).
The declaration followed its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting last week. David Sipunzi, NUM General Secretary, explained that the ruling party’s decision to unbundle the troubled power utility opens it up to be milked of millions through the Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
‘In the process of engaging Eskom on these matters, we realised that by shouting at the Eskom board and management we are barking up the wrong tree,’ Sipunzi said. ‘The real culprit is the ANC government, our government that we put into power and is now in the business of destroying jobs in order to appease the so-called rating agencies and investors.
‘Who are these Independent Power Producers who are so ruthless and greedy? As NUM, we agreed early this year to suspend action against the unbundling of Eskom so as to allow the general election process to go smoothly,’ said Sipunzi.
He said that with the government intent on going ahead with the power utility’s unbundling, the union feels obliged to intensify its opposition to the government’s move.
‘When your car has a troublesome engine, you don’t break the car into three pieces. You either fix the engine or buy a new one and fit it into the same car. Why break Eskom instead of fixing what is wrong?
‘The unbundling of Eskom into three separate entities is going to create three separate boards, three new CEOs, three new CFOs and so forth. Is this cost cutting or further bloating the workforce at the highest level at the expense of lowly paid workers?’ Sipunzi asked.
He said that compounding matters was the fact that Eskom had recently created a position for Chief Operations Officer and a Chief Restructuring Officers – but they still spoke of a bloated workforce.
- At the same time the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) have embarked on a strike action at the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
According to the union, their members demand the payment of R12,500 performance bonuses, absorption of temporary staff and introduction of a new pension fund scheme. Western Cape provincial secretary Eric Kweleta said the union has been engaging with the employer on a myriad of issues that to date remain unresolved.
‘After protracted and failed negotiations at the National Bargaining Forum (NBF) we approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to intervene. The CCMA issued NEHAWU with a certificate to strike after parties failed to find common ground on the issues of dispute,’ Kweleta said.
NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen said they are committed to working with the union through the NBF to reach agreements on any outstanding matters.
‘The current issue of contention – which is the performance management system – is one of many legacy issues that have negatively affected the performance of the scheme.
‘The terms of reference of the administrator includes managing the day-to-day work of the entity which focuses on the strengthening of structures, systems and policies that will ensure good governance and effective management of the core operational mandate of NSFAS,’ Carolissen said.
He said the 2020 application cycle will not be affected by the strike as all applications are submitted online.
However, a ‘no work, no pay’ rule will be applied for the duration of the strike.
- Elsewhere, an 11-year-old boy has been captured on video inciting his friends to join him in train surfing one of Transnet’s goods trains in KwaZulu-Natal.
According to the general secretary of the United Transport Union (UNTU), Steve Harris, the boy was arrested by the police over the weekend.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala, however, says that no such case was registered with the Verulam police station on this matter.
Harris said the 11-year-old, who was described as the ringleader, incited his friends to join him in jumping onto moving wagons of a train belonging to Transnet Freight Rail as it passed on the province’s northern line.
‘The children take advantage of the fact that the trains on this route must keep to a speed restriction of 15kmph, as they are entering an area where pedestrians cross the railway line without looking or don’t realise the speed of the approaching train.
‘According to the recent figures in the State of Rail Safety Report of the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) there were 375 fatalities due to operational occurrences and 2,660 injuries due to operational occurrences in the previous financial year. At the same time there was a 36% increase in fatalities due to safety-related occurrences,’ said Harris.
Although UNTU disputes this figure, and believes it only reflects a fraction of the true state of rail safety, the statistics known to the RSR are of great concern to it.
‘Parents must teach their children that it is no joke playing near a railway line, not even to mention a moving train. These children are not only putting their own lives at risk, but also the lives of the train driver and the train assistant as they are forced to watch the children playing on the wagons instead of keeping their eyes on the railway lines and on the signals they are passing.
‘To make matters worse, it is the train driver and the train assistant who will be charged if anything happens to the children putting their jobs in jeopardy. This is not even considering the emotional trauma the train driver and train assistant goes through if they cannot prevent an injury,’ said Harris.
According to Harris, the RSR must target these areas to create awareness for train safety at schools and in local communities, get the community to identify the specific children and to speak to their parents.
He appealed to all UNTU train drivers to immediately report similar incidents to the union so that UNTU can ensure that it is reported to the South African police service so it can act.
- Meanwhile, unemployment continues to climb. Statistician-general Risenga Maluleke says, however, that a fall in employment in the third quarter was recorded in manufacturing, construction, trade and utilities.
The rate increased 0.1 of a percentage point to 29.1% during the third quarter of 2019, statistician-general Risenga Maluleke said on Tuesday. ‘This is the highest since the first quarter of 2008,’ he said.
The expanded unemployment rate, which included discouraged job seekers, was 38.5%. Maluleke said declines in employment in the third quarter were recorded in the manufacturing sector, which shed 30,000 jobs, followed by construction at 24,000, trade 21,000 and utilities 18,000.
In the first quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate surged to 27.6%, with the economy bleeding 237,000 jobs during the period. This was an increase of 0.5 percentage points compared to the 27.1% recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018.
In the second quarter, the unemployment rate jumped to an 11-year high of 29%, when the number of unemployed people increased by 455,000 to 6.7 million. This was significantly higher than the 4.3 million unemployed people 10 years ago.
According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the working-age population — 15-64 years old — rose by 149,000 to 38.6 million in the third quarter.
The number of employed people increased by 62,000 to 16.4 million during the period under review.
Maluleke said at a briefing in Pretoria that employment increased in three sectors, with the formal sector recording the largest employment increase of 43,000 jobs, followed by agriculture and private households with 38,000 and 35,000, respectively.
The increase of 62,000 jobs in the third quarter was mainly driven by community and social services with 56,000 jobs, followed by agriculture and mining with 38,000 each and private households with 35,000.