Union federation Cosatu says it will not compromise on its demands that no Eskom employee be retrenched during the turnaround of the utility, and that the parastatal not be privatised.

Reducing Eskom’s bloated staff complement of 48,000 employees is regarded by some analysts as an essential part of any drive to reduce costs and putting the utility on a sound financial footing.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a Cosatu affiliate, supported the federation’s demands in a submission to parliament’s appropriations committee on the Special Appropriation Bill, which allocates R59bn to Eskom — R26bn in 2019 and R33bn in 2020.

“No serious union can agree to see its members thrown into the unemployment queue,” Cosatu parliamentary liaison officer Matthew Parks told MPs.

Matthew Parks. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Matthew Parks. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

He said both Cosatu and the NUM support the additional funding for Eskom, albeit with conditions.

“Any attempt to retrench workers will be an unmanageable provocation. It will force workers to go on an unprecedented mass strike,” he warned.

Parks insisted that Cosatu and the NUM’s support for the R59bn allocation was dependent on the government honouring the commitment of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC that no workers will be retrenched and that Eskom will not be privatised.

“This commitment is in direct contrast with the recently released Treasury economic strategy document that recklessly calls for Eskom’s de facto privatisation,” Parks said.

“The federation and the NUM are deeply concerned and, in fact, alarmed that, to date, no turnaround plan has been presented by the government to save Eskom. We are rapidly running out of time and bailouts are not enough nor sustainable. A clear turnaround plan is needed as a matter of the highest urgency.”

Parks said Cosatu and the NUM will engage with the government at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in the next 10 days to ensure that a turnaround plan is put in place.

“The federation believes the turnaround plan should include a reduction in the bloated senior management structure; a freeze and reduction in the ‘excessive’ packages paid to senior management; and the appointment of worker representatives to the Eskom board.”