Zingiswa Losi. Picture: SAPA/WERNER BEUKES
Zingiswa Losi. Picture: SAPA/WERNER BEUKES

Union federation Cosatu has rejected a proposal to unbundle Eskom as a measure to fix the over-indebted power utility.

Speaking at a briefing with journalists on Tuesday, Cosatu’s first deputy president Michael Shingange said the unbundling would not resolve Eskom’s governance and structural issues.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to unveil the government’s plans for Eskom in his state of the nation address on Thursday evening.

The plan is anticipated to entail separating the generation side of the business, which has 45GW of installed power, from its transmission business.

“We made it clear we do not support the unbundling as the only option to turn around Eskom. Our, view is that when you unbundle an entity like that you create …  new boards and CEOs who must still consume public resources, which are limited,” Shingange said.

“We have a task-team that was supposed to be advising the president about the ways and means to save Eskom. They presented only one option. We find it unacceptable that they would only come up with one option. We are saying, present us [with] other options inclusive of the unbundling.”

Eskom is facing a net loss of R20bn in the financial year to March and is burdened by a R419bn debt, with business and investors describing the crisis at the utility as the single-biggest risk to the economy.

Cosatu said it has not yet been consulted about the restructuring plan, adding that it was promised a meeting at the ANC lekgotla in January that has not materialised. The union federation has set its sights on Eskom as one of the organisations it will be protesting against when its members go on a one-day national strike on February 13.

The strike against job losses has been approved by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), meaning all workers will be protected should they choose to take part.  Cosatu said it is taking the stance against job losses due to “contradictions” observed following the October jobs summit.

Although business and the government committed to exploring other options if faced with having to to retrench workers, the agreement has not led to the halting of job losses with several companies, including Standard Bank, announcing retrenchments in 2018.

The summit also resolved to create 275,000 jobs annually.

“It is a contradiction that we sat there and the outcome was to create jobs in the country, and yet retrenchments are still undergoing. Are you really creating jobs? The march … seeks to respond to the contradictions that are taking place. We will respond to the issue of Eskom,” said Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi.

The federation said it wants workers to have a say in how the economy is managed and structured in order to avoid job losses.  In its shopping list for the state of the nation address, and the budget speech on February 19, the federation made several demands including the creation of decent jobs to be placed at the centre of the country’s economic policy, with a focus on the growth of small and medium enterprises.

“We understand the enormous responsibility that faces us because the economic forces of crisis and stagnation are deeply rooted. Only profound economic restructuring and the forging of new strategies for growth and development will solve these problems,” said Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.

Cosatu also plans to march to parliament when finance minister Tito Mboweni delivers his budget speech.