THE National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa says it is gearing up for the “mother of all strikes” in its bid to fight the looming job cuts at that country’s electricity supply company Eskom.
Last week, the power utility announced that it would be shutting down several power stations in Mpumalanga because it had an oversupply of electricity.
The closure of these plants is also to make way for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) which the government has committed itself to.
The chief executive officer of Eskom confirmed through the media that these changes would result in at least 30,000 people losing their jobs, not just in Eskom, but in related sectors as well.
“As NUMSA, we cannot simply sit back and allow Eskom and this government to destroy the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their families. In an environment where there are high levels of poverty and escalating unemployment, we believe that every job counts,” NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim stated.
He stated that NUMSA was challenging Eskom’s view that there was surplus electricity.
Jim stated that the truth of the matter was that electricity had become extremely expensive because of price drivers, in particular coal.
“What Eskom perceives as surplus energy is due to the closure of many companies which were unable to afford the high cost of electricity. In essence, Eskom is directly responsible for high levels of de-industrialisation,” Jim stated.
He stated that the closure of Eskom power stations was senseless and reckless.
“In fact, we are convinced that this reckless, senseless move to close the power stations, as well as the introduction of the IPP programme, is a calculated move to privatise Eskom and to create conditions for the introduction of the new nuclear programme in South Africa,” Jim stated.
He stated that currently, Eskom pays 35 cents per kilowatt from its coal fired power stations, but they intended to pay the astronomical price of R2.41 per kilowatt to the IPP’s for the supply of electricity. Jim stated that this would undoubtedly have a negative impact on all South Africans who were already struggling to pay for electricity.
He stated that the introduction of IPP’s would result in the cost of electricity going up.
“Many households can’t even afford electricity at the current rate and yet this government has endorsed this bizarre policy! What government and Eskom should be addressing is how to nationalise coal and guarantee quality coal supply to the national grid. Instead, they are cutting jobs,” Jim stated.
He stated that for the last 23 years, the ANC government had pursued disastrous macroeconomic policies which were responsible for high unemployment and poverty levels.
He stated that at least a quarter of the South African population was unemployed and it was clear that for the last two decades, the ANC’s priority had been to enable white monopoly capital to continue to reap benefits at the expense of the poor African working class majority.
“Workers are suffering every day. Those who are fortunate enough to still be working can barely survive on their meagre earnings, whilst the majority are languishing in poverty caused by unemployment,” Jim stated.
He stated that NUMSA was not against a progressive energy mix and a movement at some point away from fossil fuels to renewable energy
“We are not prepared to sacrifice existing jobs, and therefore human lives, to achieve this goal. This government has failed to industrialise the country and create an economy that can shift workers who are involved in fossil fuels, into a modern economy powered by renewables. NUMSA is calling for a National Shut Down,” Jim stated.
He stated that patriotic South Africans, employed or unemployed, young and old, who cared about the future of their country must mobilize for the campaign.
“We are fighting for the right to be able to live a dignified life and to be able to support our families and develop our communities. We must organise or starve,” stated Jim.
NUMSA is the largest metalworkers union in South Africa and the African continent with 350,000 members from numerous sectors, including mining, transportation and energy.