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Cosatu’s May Day call: No Eskom worker must be retrenched

  • Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi has reiterated that no Eskom worker must be retrenched.
  • This comes ahead of a fresh round of wage negotiations at the power utility, which is heavily indebted. 
  • Losi also slammed government for an “unholy” proposal to freeze public sector wages.

Labour federation Cosatu took the opportunity on 1 May to reiterate its position that no worker at battered state-owned power utility Eskom should be retrenched. 

Cosatu, whose social compact for Eskom was signed at the National Economic Development and Labour Council last year, has previously called for guarantees that there will be no retrenchments at Eskom and threatened a mass strike if jobs are cut.

“Cosatu’s Eskom Social Compact has been agreed to by government and business. At its heart is an agreement that no Eskom worker may be retrenched.

“Government must clean up the corruption and mismanagement that has
brought Eskom to its knees. Those who have looted there must be arrested. Eskom must embrace a Just Transition that will see jobs being created, not
destroyed. The economy needs reliable and affordable electricity if it is
to recover,” said Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi on Saturday.

Eskom’s recovery plan is a central pillar of the country’s economic recovery, Losi added.

Wage negotiations are set to resume at the power utility next week. Unions the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity are negotiating for increases for non-managerial employees, with talks scheduled to continue for a month. 

At stake is a wage deal for the next three years. 

Eskom – which has a debt burden approaching R500 billion – has called for workers to put the “best interests of the country” first. Meanwhile NUM, the largest union at Eskom, wants a 15% increase with a housing allowance increase to R7 000, while Numsa wants a 15% increase and a one-year agreement. Solidarity wants a 9.5% increase and a work-from-home allowance. 

In the last round of negotiations in 2018, unions wanted similar hikes, but the utility offered zero percent.

Public sector wage impasse

In the same address, Losi also slammed government’s proposed wage freeze on public servants, calling it an “unholy attack on the constitutional right of workers to collective bargaining”. 

“These are the very
same nurses, doctors, police officers and teachers that we praise for serving
us during this pandemic. Yet government honours them by abandoning a
signed wage agreement and does not even have the courtesy to engage workers,” Losi said, adding that “government wants to
dump the bill for corruption on nurses earning R186 000 per annum”.

Earlier this week, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu put out a call to the public for proposals on how to break the deadlock on wage negotiations.

Unions want an inflation-related increase plus 4%, while government has stood firm on its offer of a zero percent increase on the cost-of-living adjustment as it tries to save R160 billion on the public sector wage bill.  

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