Cosatu stands firm on Eskom: no job losses, privatisation or price hikes
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is ready to engage the government on Eskom’s unbundling - but on the condition that there is no privatisation, no job losses and no electricity price hikes.
Addressing thousands of Cosatu members during a march in Durban on Wednesday, the labour federation president Zingiswa Losi called on the ANC government not to abdicate its responsibility to generate electricity to the private sector.
"As Cosatu, we said we're ready to engage with the ANC government about this unbundling of Eskom, but we must agree on three things with the government: that you may call it whatever you want to call it, but jobs must not be lost; electricity costs must not go up; and we don’t want privatisation," said Losi.
She said it would be a disaster if the ANC government allowed the private sector to produce electricity for SA.
"The ANC government must never abdicate its responsibility to generate electricity. It [would be] a disaster, because if capitalists want to go on an investment strike, they will make sure that they are not producing electricity and this country will come to a standstill, as we are experiencing," she said.
Losi said the challenges facing Eskom required all South Africans to come up with solutions. "The problem that we have in Eskom, it is a problem that will need us South Africans to come with solutions. If people who have a responsibility at Eskom to ensure that the lights are on in SA can’t do their job, they must face disciplinary processes because they are being paid."
The Cosatu president said they were also buoyed by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s recent statement that the ruling party stood by workers in opposing Eskom's privatisation.
"We’re happy we read the statement by the ANC SG, who said as the ANC they are standing with us as workers. The ANC says through the SG, no to privatisation [and] no to retrenchments at Eskom. The ANC says through President Ramaphosa [that] there will be no retrenchments in the public sector," she said.
"We’re waiting for the capitalists to give us a moratorium on retrenchments."
Losi also revealed that Cosatu had intervened in a bid to save 140,000 jobs in the textile and retail sector by instructing the ANC in parliament to speak to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) board and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to save the Edcon group. The UIF board and PIC have until Friday to save the 140,000 jobs, she said.
"Retrenchments, job losses, unemployment - we are not going tolerate in SA," said Losi.
"Capitalists went to the job summit and said they are going to invest and create job opportunities in SA, but when they come out of the job summit, they start in the mining and construction industries and say they are going to retrench more than 10,000 workers. It’s a contradiction because you can’t say you are going to create jobs and then retrench people."
The demands Cosatu presented in a memorandum to the KZN provincial government include:
- interventions that place the creating of decent jobs at the centre of economic policy, instead of relegating them to a "trickle-down" effect;
- for Ramaphosa and finance minister Tito Mboweni to reflect on the devastating effect that the VAT increase has had on the poor;
- an end to state capture, corruption and mismanagement; and
- a stop to the privatisation of Eskom through renewable energy and the closure of coal mines.
The memorandum was accepted by Mxolisi Kaunda, KZN MEC for transport, community safety and liaison.
Cosatu also reiterated its call for a ban on labour brokers, which it described as "modern day slavery".
"One of the reasons for having the department of labour is precisely to link job seekers with prospective employers without a fee and the violation of workers' labour rights," said the federation.