The president of trade union federation Cosatu, Zingiswa Losi, has warned that government should consult with it in good faith on the planned unbundling of Eskom.
“We stand opposed, but we can’t sit it out because of that opposition ... We will go and engage with government. We are just hoping that we are not being invited to engage on a matter that has already been concluded,” she said, adding that Cosatu was “looking for meaningful engagement to understand exactly what unbundling means”.
During his state of the nation address on Thursday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa set up a potential clash with Cosatu and other unions when he announced that Eskom would be split into three units – generation, transmission and distribution.
“This will ensure that we isolate costs and give responsibility to each appropriate entity. This will also enable Eskom to be able to raise funding for its various operations much more easily from funders and the market,” said Ramaphosa.
There was an outcry last year after government signed power purchase agreements with independent power producers, with the likes of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA saying this would lead to job losses.
Government disagreed, saying that, in fact, more jobs would be created.
On Friday, Losi outlined some of Cosatu’s terms – the first being its opposition to any outsourcing of Eskom services to independent power producers: “It would be a contradiction of [last year’s] Jobs Summit outcomes in relation to creating jobs.”
Secondly, said Losi, Cosatu wanted a guarantee that electricity costs would not increase as a result of the unbundling process – particularly if there were plans to involve independent power producers.
“It would increase the cost of government selling electricity and for consumers to buy it. There is that trickle-down effect,” she said.
ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said Eskom had to deal with its increasing debt problem.
“Eskom has huge debt now, so we need to sort that out. The road to unbundling is certainly the correct one. At the end of the day, you want an effective energy generator and distributor, and you want it to be financially sustainable,” Mashatile said.
He said the ANC was engaging with its alliance partners, which include Cosatu, the SA Communist Party and the SA National Civic Organisation.
Meanwhile, Losi said Cosatu would also have input regarding Ramaphosa’s plans to reduce the size of Cabinet.
“We are ready to take proposals on how to collapse certain departments. We already have ideas, but we are waiting for that process of engagement,” she said.