Following Eskom’s decision continue its coal power shutdown across the country, the trade union’s National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has decided to match on with its nationwide strike against the power utility.
The union’s general secretary Irvin Jim said this on Friday morning pointing out that the union will soon embark on the mother of all strikes in a bid to fight 30,000 job losses and Eskom’s plans to make way for Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
Eskom, last week, announced that it will go ahead with its coal power shutdown in several power stations in Mpumalanga because it had an oversupply of electricity.
The closure of these plants, according to the power utility, is also to make way for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) which the government has committed itself to.
The CEO of Eskom confirmed through the media that these changes will result in at least 30,000 people losing their jobs, not just in Eskom, but in related sectors as well.
Thus, in a lengthy statement, Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim said his union could not sit back and watch the destruction of jobs.
“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 is challenging Eskom’s view that there is surplus electricity. The truth of the matter is that electricity has become extremely expensive because of price drivers, in particular coal.
“Also, 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-industrialization,” he said while pointing out clearly that NUMSA was not against a progressive energy mix but was not prepared to sacrifice jobs.
“If necessary we will go on strike and if that means plunging the country into darkness, then that is the strategy we must adopt,” Jim said.
“We will bring this economy to its knees. We will mobilize communities to hold demonstrations and pickets because this crisis affects them too‚”
Like NUMSA, Cosatu condemned Eskom’s coal power shutdown, saying it is not just an arrogant decision‚ but a hostile act of provocation directed at workers and their unions.
The union federation’s national spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said Cosatu would seek a meeting with Eskom and the government to discuss the “unacceptable decision”.
He lashed out at the power utility saying: “It appears that Eskom makes decisions with no vision‚ no planning‚ and no care about consequences. If we have surplus electricity then we must cancel nuclear‚ reduce prices‚ export more to Africa and invest in building electric cars.”
The union agreed with the National Union of Mineworkers that SA’s climate change obligations to introduce renewable energy into the electricity grid should not result in back-door privatization, and further commercialization of the Eskom.
The group said it was not hostile to the introduction of independent power producers (IPPs) by Eskom‚ but that they refuse to allow the decision to be distorted and used to retrench thousands of workers.