STRIKE LOOMS AT ESKOM!
9 August, 2018
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns Eskom for negotiating in bad faith. As soon as we edged closer to reaching settlement on all wage related issues, the Eskom management team’s true intentions were exposed. They stated, in the negotiations, that they wanted us to accept that they would take disciplinary action and dismiss many of our members for their demonstrations and protests during the negotiations. We reject this with the contempt it deserves!
It is clear to all unions that the overall strategy adopted by Eskom is that they want to dismiss our members for having demonstrated during these negotiations. We can also confirm that as unions the only outstanding issue in this round of negotiations relates to disciplinary action. However, we are very firm that we are not willing to trade the job security of our members for a wage deal.
ESKOM PROVOKED WORKERS INTO PROTEST AND NOW WANTS TO PUNISH THEM!
The Eskom board chair Jabu Mabuza admitted that approaching the wage talks with a 0% wage offer was a ‘tactical error”. Their “tactical error” and intransigent attitude which they adopted throughout negotiations, was extremely provocative on straight forward issues, such as bonuses where workers have clearly performed having been assessed through agreed internal assessment tools. Eskom management unilaterally introduced new tools of assessment that were never negotiated with workers and their unions. The Eskom management provoked workers to a point where they embarked on peaceful demonstrations, Eskom now wants to use those demonstrations as ammunition to charge workers with an intention to dismiss them. This we reject with the contempt it deserves. This clandestine, anti-worker, union bashing attitude is what has led to the current deadlock and the collapse of negotiations.
WE DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE DISMISSAL OF THE ESKOM MANAGEMENT AND BOARD FOR DESTROYING THE SOE!
NUMSA is very clear that we do not promote any form of misconduct by our members, but we remain open to the use of corrective disciplinary measures (less than dismissal) if there is real evidence of misconduct. This is the proper course following a negotiated process. We will not give Eskom license to get rid of our members, which is clearly a covert strategy to fulfill an agenda from Eskom to get rid of a large number of workers. It is the Eskom Board and the management of Eskom who acted against the interest of the public by connecting 27 expensive and unaffordable Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer’s (IPP’s) to the national grid. Against this background we find it ironic that the very same Eskom management is the one who must read the Riot Act to our members with the intention of dismissing them. In fact, the management are prime candidates for dismissal when you analyze how they have mismanaged and looted Eskom and brought it to the brink of financial ruin. We view the signing of the IPP’s by the Eskom GCEO Phakamani Hadebe, as not just a fraudulent act, but an abdication of his fiduciary duties.
If Eskom insists on the dismissal of workers, as a union we are left with no option but to also demand the dismissal of the current management and Eskom’s Board for having relegated their duties in signing the IPP’s, which is the real reason why Eskom would not quickly settle this round of negotiations.
It is NUMSA’s view that this intention of wanting to dismiss workers for exercising their right to demonstrate, demanding improvement on their wages and implementation of the agreed bonus incentive schemes, which Eskom refused to pay, is a provocative stance and the unions and workers backs are against the wall.
We are warning Eskom management, the Board and government as the shareholder that if they do not withdraw this threat, they leave us with no choice but to exercise our constitutional right to engage in protected strike action in defense of jobs as a last resort. We have taken this decision after serious consideration while moving backward and forward in trying to accommodate Eskom management’s concerns. That is why we have also resolved to call for a meeting this coming Monday between the Board and Minister Pravin Gordhan to deliberate on this matter with an intention to find a solution that can resolve the current deadlock.
The failure of the Board, management and the government to come to the party will leave unions with no option but to go back to workers and report that Eskom had declared war against them and their jobs are at stake. The principle of “an injury to one, is an injury to all” is the basis upon which we must defend workers’ jobs. We do not rule out the possibility of protected industrial action, something which others may see as irresponsible. However, Eskom management is leaving workers with no option other than to engage in protected strike action – which might prove disastrous for the economy and the country. It is frustrating that we are forced to consider the drastic step while we are at the final stages of settlement.
ESKOM HAS MADE A MOCKERY OF THE ENTIRE NEGOTIATIONS PROCESS
Instead of Eskom being interested in signing a settlement agreement, which should settle this round of negotiations, Eskom wanted to engage us on disciplinary action against our members spelling out their intention to dismiss workers. This is despite the unions having suggested that where Eskom has specific cases of alleged misconduct, we can negotiate disciplinary measures that are corrective in nature without dismissing workers. Eskom rejected our reasonable proposals, spelling out their intention to get rid of a sizable number of workers - to further their secret aims to retrench and to dismiss thousands of workers at Eskom.
ESKOM WANTS TO OFFSET THE COST OF THE WAGE DEAL WITH MASS DISMISSALS
This stance adopted by Eskom makes a mockery of the entire process of negotiations and its outcomes. In fact, as things stand, the negotiation outcomes are being rendered a futile exercise. What would be the point of celebrating wage settlement agreements and the once-off R10 000 settlement payout, which once it has been paid, will result in workers being dismissed?
It is clear to us what Eskom’s strategy has been all along: it does not matter to them what the offer is on the table, they intend to dismiss workers, in order to offset the costs of the wage settlement. That is why we have no choice but to refuse to sign a settlement which will result in mass dismissals.
This stance adopted by Eskom management confirms what we have always said which is mass dismissals, and the privatization of Eskom. The conclusion of the IPP contracts is the beginning of the jobs blood bath which we are about to witness taking place at State Owned Entity. The power utility conformed that the conclusion of the IPP contracts would result in 92 000 jobs lost in Mpumalanga alone. This includes the much talked about intention of breaking up Eskom and to separate business units with the ultimate goal of privatizing it.
We are hoping to meet with the minister on Monday. If this fails, we will have to consult our members to determine whether to embark on protected strike action. We are confident that the Labour Court will set aside its earlier court order interdicting any strike.
The struggle continues!
Statement issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 9 August 2018