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NUMSA and United Front Joint Memorandum on the Eskom tariff increase

By Irvin Jim, Trevor Ngwane, and Lindiwe Malindi - NUMSA, December 1, 2017

The National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA) and the UNITED FRONT (UF) are extremely dismayed by the opportunistic call made by the Eskom board and its management to increase the electricity tariff by 19.9%. We view this demand by Eskom as nothing more than a gross abuse of power, and an attempt by the State Owned Entity (SOE) to hold the entire country and the economy hostage. This is being done by an entity which has been moving from one scandal to another with absolutely no leadership. In fact, it is extremely shocking that in a period of just two years, Eskom has changed CEO’s three times, and its CFO, Anoj Singh, has been suspended under a cloud of corruption and mismanagement allegations. But the same company and its board have the audacity to make an outrageous demand for a 19.9% tariff increase. They have no regard for the catastrophic implications which will trigger a national crisis of plant closures of small, medium and large companies; as well as causing retrenchments in all big companies. It will in fact destroy all opportunities to stimulate real economic growth and jobs.

Socio-Economic Situation

NUMSA and the UF are of the view that the economy has been in a technical recession for several months which means the working class of this country are facing a job-loss blood bath across all sectors. Currently more than 36% of the working population is unemployed, and the numbers are increasing. More than 30.4 million of the population lives in abject poverty; the average worker supports at least 5 dependents on his/her meagre income, and at least 26 million South Africans go to bed hungry. Any change in the price of electricity will compound all these problems and increase the chances of a violent explosion in the country.

It is against this backdrop that NUMSA and the United Front reject Eskom’s outrageous demand for a 19.9% tariff increase. The Eskom board are clearly completely deaf and blind to the suffering of the working class because they decided to make this proposal in spite of the fact that there is glaring evidence that the working class majority simply cannot afford an increase in the electricity rate. The United Front and NUMSA have decided to hold this demonstration to express our anger with Eskom for wanting to increase the suffering of the working class, by requesting a tariff increase.

NUMSA’s Submission to NERSA on Eskom’s Application for a tariff increase

By Irvin Jim - NUMSA, November 15, 2017

NUMSA is a manufacturing union and since 2009, the union has witnessed the deep global crisis of capitalism in the manufacturing sector. NUMSA has witnessed hemorrhaging of jobs, plant closures retrenchments the downward variation of conditions and benefits of workers and the casualization of labour. At the centre of this crisis, especially in small, medium-sized companies has been the uncompetitive Eskom electricity tariffs.

The history of job losses can be traced to wrong the ANC government neo-liberal policies such as liberalization of trade, removal of exchange controls, continuous and the maintenance of high interest rates by the Reserve Bank. This situation was worsened the day government made the decision to move Eskom away from its core mandate which was to supply cheap electricity to the economy in order to grow the economy, to electrify communities and to create jobs. This mandate was replaced by a backward government and NERSA with the decision to prioritize their balance sheet, which was nothing more than to chase profits.

NUMSA has consistently called for the nationalization of all commanding heights of the economy and all our minerals. In the case of Eskom, we have consistently made a call that government must nationalize the strategic coal mines that must supply the national grid with cheap quality coal, so that we can escape the continuous exorbitant prices of primary coal, and deliver a competitive electricity tariff. If one were to look at the exorbitant primary coal tariff increases from 2007 to 2016, they are indeed shocking and appear to be a money-making scheme which is not in line with the original mandate of Eskom.

A just transition from climate change and unemployment – a trade union perspective

By Joseph Mathunjwa - Daily Mavrick, November 7, 2017

The global economy is facing numerous structural challenges. With the looming fourth economic revolution characterised by even more technological development and mechanisation, the future of productive labour is bleak. Most unskilled and semi-skilled workers are likely to lose their jobs. Even some skilled workers are not spared from this emerging catastrophe, as numerous job categories – such as brick-layers – are increasingly becoming redundant.

This points to the urgent need for planning, for conscious investment in job-rich, growth opportunities that enable economies to build productive capacity in labour intensive sectors. One way of achieving this is to strengthen wage led growth, which, in turn, stimulates aggregate demand through enlarged household incomes. Without a dramatic increase in the wages of mine workers, farm workers and all employed people in our country, we will never be able to deal with South Africa’s most urgent problems: inequality, mass unemployment and poverty.

Since unemployment is the greatest determinant of poverty and income inequality, we can expect these, too, to worsen. Already, in 2015, 30.4-million people, that is, 55.5% of the population live on less than R441 per month, or less than R15 per day. The fact that 10% of South Africa’s population earn around 60% of all income, points to South Africa’s widening inequality. Even more alarming is that the richest 10% of the population own at least 90–95% of all assets. 

With these terrible statistics in mind, it becomes redundant to repeat what we have been saying as a trade union for a long time, namely, SA urgently requires the redistribution of wealth.

When the millions of working people in our country can afford what the few take for granted – a television set, a washing machine, dining room table, etc – we create the conditions for developing the economies of scale that can sustain local industries from the intense competition coming from a globalised economy. In this way, we will be able to make in-roads into the almost 10 million people who are out of work, out of income and out of dignity.

The importance of the climate jobs work the Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC) has been leading is that it identifies where the jobs can be created. As AIDC’s latest research – One Million Climate Jobs – Moving South Africa forward on a low-carbon, wage-led and sustainable path – makes clear, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs in championing low carbon development, as the complimentary strategy to a wage-led development path.

The AIDC’s solidarity with AMCU (the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) is greatly appreciated. It is a solidarity based on a shared approach and conviction of the urgent need to confront the numerous challenges facing our economy, the people whose needs the economy is supposed to meet and the sustainability of human life on a planet heating to unsustainable levels.

However, AMCU is a trade union representing mine workers and construction workers. These workers are embedded in the very industrial processes that are at the centre of contributing to global warming and other environmental problems. It is inescapable that, if we are going to move decisively to a low carbon less polluting economy, it is going to be at the cost of coal mining, coal fired energy plants, coal to liquid gas, etc. Unless jobs are offered to our members in clean industries, they would never voluntarily agree to the shutting down of mining and energy industries. It would be like asking them to commit suicide.

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on

By Marienna Pope-Weidemann - Red Pepper, October 13, 2017

The fatal police shooting of 37 striking workers at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in August 2012 was the worst recorded instance of police violence in post-apartheid South Africa. Five years on, there have been no prosecutions and no real improvements – no compensation for the families living in grief and dire poverty.

There has also been no apology, although staggeringly Lonmin has created a commercial out of the incident. But as always with the Marikana story, the most important characters were left out.

A few weeks after the massacre there was another death in the community. Amidst a brutal crackdown Paulina Masuhlo, a powerful community leader, died after being shot by police. Paulina’s death helped galvanise the birth of Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana.

As well as demanding criminal prosecution for the killings and compensation for the families, Sikhala Sonke also carries forward the demands those workers died for: a living wage and dignified conditions.

Should Unions Strike for a Just Transition?

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 10, 2017

After more than a decade of tenacious union lobbying of government negotiators, the words “a just transition of the workforce” was written into the preamble of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

But now what? Encouraged by Paris, unions around the world have committed fresh energy towards giving Just Transition some practical significance, otherwise it will remain little more than a moral appeal for fairness in a corporate-dominated world economy where both morality and fairness are increasingly scarce.

This Bulletin features an article by TUED coordinator Sean Sweeney on the recent commitment made by unions in South Africa to strike for a “just transition.” However, the goal of the threatened strike is to halt the plan of the national utility (Eskom) to close 5 coal-fired power stations, a move that threatens 40,000 jobs.  Titled “When Stopping Coal Plant Closures Makes Environmental Sense” the article, which first appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of New Labor Forum, urges environmentalists not to support the closures, but to join with unions in opposing Eskom’s proposed actions.  Supporting the closures, argues Sweeney is “a poisoned chalice,”  that “will separate the environmental movement from the unions with whom it should be allied. And whatever environmental gains the 5 closures might produce at the margins in terms of avoided emissions and pollution levels will be more than offset by the impact of ‘jobs versus environment’ political fragmentation. This is why the Eskom closures should be opposed, but opposed in a way that might lay the political foundations for a more fundamental energy transition.”

Since the article was written, Eskom’s war with the private renewable energy companies has continued, with the utility pushing back against high-cost of power purchase agreements for wind and solar power. TUED union NUMSA and also the new South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) have called for a socially owned renewables sector in order to allow for a just energy transition from the present coal-dominated power system to one that can take advantage of South Africa’s abundant supplies of wind and sunshine.

Trade Unions For Energy Democracy: Asia-Pacific Regional meeting

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 29, 2017

Agenda:

Chair: Lance McCallum (National Campaign Coordinator, Australian Council of Trade Unions)

1. Sean Sweeney (Director, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy) :
A. Keystone USA: Calling from Nebraska: testifying against jobs claims for Keystone pipeline, strong movement in republican state also from first nations and environment groups
B. USA: Positive TUED presence at recent People’s Summit in Chicago – good traction in USA and support from Bernie Sanders supporting unions for TUED – this is against the spilt over energy in unions in the USA
C. UK: Labour party has adopted platform of energy democracy – Corbyn’s excellent result is encouraging–the platform is not straightforward nationalisation rather focused on initiatives like municipal control and procurement. Further movement from the Trade Union Council (UK) through recent motion to split up big power utility companies
D. Europe: Successful first meeting in Geneva that brought together cross section of European unions including – France, UK and Basque region. Resolved to produce framing statement for COP 23 when in Bonn.
E. South Africa: NUMSA and new national centre (SAFTU) undertaking strike action against the closure of coal and adoption of privatised renewable energy. Potential to strike at 6 power stations currently. Potential for NUMSA and SAFTU to embark on campaign for nationwide just transition campaigns (which would be first of such scale)
F. Australia: impressed by latest video on social media by ACTU starting a conversation about nationalising electricity system.
Questions

Colin Long: TUED presence at COP 23: Yes TUED is applying to host side event, have presence as part of union contingent, potential street protests. ITUC contact is Annabel Rosenberg – organising ITUC event.

2. Kate Lee ( Executive Officer: Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA)
a. India trip: End of November, 2017
TNI India is organising conference for unions, academics and state governments to explore climate impacts and energy democracy opportunities in India. Sean Sweeney will attend and speak with good opportunities for more discussion regarding the TUED analysis. There will also be an opportunity to link with a global unions meeting in the region. Following this Sean will be able to visit Nepal to visit TUED unions there for further discussions. Interested unions are welcome to participate – contact Kate for further details
b. Tom Reddington’s position
Tom has recently started working at Union Aid Abroad –APHEDA as the climate justice and energy democracy organiser. He has capacity to support the TUED Asia-Pacific network. He is progressing the mapping exercise from the recent New York meeting and will be distributing a short survey for members to complete soon.
Questions:
Greg Mclean will send Kate Lee contacts re. Energy democracy and unions in India (Prayas and Raman Khan)
Colin Long: interested in bringing Bangladeshi unionist to Australia to discuss new coal projects (e.g. Adani) from their perspective and worker exploitation

Energy Democracy and Just Transition Endorsed at Launch of South Africa’s New Trade Union Federation

By John Treat - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, May 1, 2017

At a historic launch event held outside Johannesburg on April 21-23, 2017, almost 1,400 voting delegates from two-dozen unions representing 700,000 workers convened to launch the new “South African Federation of Trade Unions” (SAFTU).

In addition to adopting the name, logo and colors — red, black and gold — delegates also endorsed a range of principles adopted at a preparatory “Workers’ Summit” convened by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in April 2016, adopted a new constitution, and approved a report from the Steering Committee proposing a range of campaigning priorities for the next period.

In a recent article, then SAFTU convener Zwelinzima Vavi said:

We’ve got a mix of workers in the private sector, manufacturing, transport, mining and construction. And we’ve got unions in the public sector – the biggest ones are the South African Policing Union and the National Union of Public Servants and Allied Workers.[SAFTU] is independent but not apolitical. It is truly worker controlled and democratic and not ‘sloganising’ over the issues. SAFTU is truly fighting and militant.”

At a TUED strategy meeting in New York in early April, Karl Cloete, NUMSA’s Deputy General Secretary, told union representatives from 12 countries that while the new federation’s campaigning priorities will focus on the many grave and urgent challenges facing South Africa’s highly exploited workers and exceptionally vulnerable poor, SAFTU would also make energy democracy and just transition part of its core agenda.

Declaration of the Launching Congress of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)

By staff - Trade Unions For Energy Democracy, April 23, 2017

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) has been born. We have passed a milestone in the history of the South African trade union movement at this Launching Congress held in Boksburg from 21-23 April 2017.

700,000 workers represented by 1,384 voting delegates from 24 unions and other non-voting unions have taken the first decisive step to building a new, vibrant, independent, and democratic workers’ federation, leading the struggle against exploitation, mass unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption and taking up the struggle for the total emancipation of the working class from the chains of its capitalist oppressors.

Delegates formally adopted the name, logo and colours of red, black and gold. A constitution was adopted and a Report from the Steering Committee which  spelt out the way forward for the coming period, and endorsed the principles adopted by the Workers Summit on 30 April 2016.

We are building a fundamentally different type of workers’ organisation – independent of political parties and employers but not apolitical, democratic, worker-controlled, militant, socialist-orientated, internationalist, Pan Africanist from a Marxist perspective and inspired by the principles of Marxism-Leninism. 

Our historic mission is to rapidly build a united mass force of workers, which will transform their lives and pave the way for the transformation of society as a whole from one based on the greed of a rapacious capitalist elite to one run for the benefit of the working class and all the people of South Africa and the world.

But time is not on our side. Unless we urgently mobilize our forces to confront the quadruple challenge of unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption and revive the trade union movement, turn the tide and fight back against their appalling conditions of life, we shall slide into a new age of barbarism, and even worse exploitation of the working class and the poor. 

NUMSA statement on Eskom CEO’s resignation

By Irvin Jim and Patrick Craven - NUMSA, November 16, 2016

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa welcomes the resignations of Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and Board member Mark Pamensky, and calls for the resignation of the entire board and divisional executives who are all implicated in the many serious allegations against Eskom in the former Public Protector’s report, the State of Capture, which include:

1. Irregularities in an Eskom deal with a Gupta-0wned mining company, Tegeta, which won a R2-billion profit from a transaction involving Glencor’s sale of Optimum Coal Mine and its holding company to Tegeta.

2. Eskom letting Tegeta sell off part of Optimum Coal Terminal — a deal which Ajay Gupta told the public protector had netted him a profit of R2-billion, which might constitute a contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) as Eskom “acted solely for the benefit of one company”.

3. Eskom’s authorisation of a R660-million coal prepayment to Tegeta at a special board meeting, hours after the Gupta company informed Glencor they were R600-million short of the money to buy the mine and that banks had refused to come up with the cash. This could violate the PFMA and amount to fraud as the money was not used to fund the mine but to buy the shares of the holding company — contrary to what Tegeta said publicly.

4. A 10-year contract with Tegeta to supply 1.35 million tons of coal a year to Majuba power station at roughly R284 per ton from their Brakfontein mine, despite evidence that Eskom’s technical team were concerned about the coal’s quality. Eskom paid R134-million to Tegeta for substandard coal it knew it could not use in its power stations.

Eskom has even victimised two Numsa members whom they are trying to make scapegoats for this Brakfontein deal. One has been dismissed and the other suspended for over a year and Numsa will continuously fight for justice for these members.

5. Molefe’s “cosy” relationship with the Guptas which are substantiated by cell phone records which show that he phoned Ajay Gupta 44 times, and Ajay Gupta called him 14 times, between August last year and March this year. Between August 5 and November 17 2015, he was placed in Saxonwold on 19 occasions.  Atul Gupta admitted to Madonsela that Molefe was a “very good friend”, yet Molefe had not declared his relationship with the Gupta family.

All these are allegations which the proposed Commission of Enquiry must investigate, but they are sufficiently serious to make it impossible for Molefe and the Eskom Board to continue with business as usual and they must stand down.

This however raises the question of who should replace them, and also who should be on the boards of other state-owned entities about several of which the State of Capture report also expresses concern, including Transnet, Denel, SAA and the SABC.

Numsa has consistently opposed privatisation of public entities, called for the renationalisation of Arcelor Mittal SA and Sasol and the nationalisation of other strategic industries. But it is now clear that SOEs all need to be run in a far more democratic and socially responsible way.

Public utilities should have an entirely different set of objectives from private companies – to produce commodities and deliver services which people need, as efficiently, safely and economically as possible and to protect the environment and the economic prospects for future generations.

This is impossible however when SOEs are run as they are today, as if they are private businesses, motivated exclusively by the pursuit of maximum short-term profits, regardless of the impact their activities have on local communities, the environment, their workers and the long-term future of the economy, and also as auxiliary service providers to the dominant private capitalist system.

The underlying problem at the heart of all Madonsela’s allegations is that SOEs have become entangled with the corrupt private sector through outsourcing of ancillary activities and thus been infected with the disease of corruption, which is inherent in the capitalist system.

While Eskom itself remains state-owned, it has done huge deals with private companies, in particular those in the coal mining industry, many of which feature in the former Public Protector’s allegations.

This leads to a particularly blatant form of corruption arising from the SOE directors’ close relations with the state, corrupt politicians and private companies, which creates the crony capitalism which Madonsela has exposed.

When challenged by Numsa about Eskom’s outsourcing of coal mining, Molefe argued that he was not interested in owning the bakery but only in the delivery of the bread.  But coal mining and electricity generation are inextricably linked together.

If public ownership is to achieve the social objectives as defined above it will have to embrace all the key sectors of the economy so that they can be integrated into a coherent development plan of production.

This will however be impossible if their boards are full of profit-motivated business men and women. The new Eskom Board must reverse this trend and comprise of democratically elected representatives of the workers, communities and civil society, so that they are run in the interests of South Africa as a whole and not their selfish interests and those of corrupt cronies.

This should then set the pattern for all SOEs and other industries which need to be nationalised so that we can create a socialist South Africa based on the Freedom Charter in which the wealth of the country is really transferred to the people.

Numsa Press Statement on the Numsa 14th of October 2015 Anti-Corruption March

By Irvin Jim - NUMSA, October 7, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. The following event is unfolding as this goes to press:

A. The origins and foundations of South Africa’s unique corruption

There is concrete evidence, and also an admission by a key individual with a conscience, Ronnie Kasrils, about the extent of the sell-out deals the ANC made with capital during the 1990s, namely that the ANC would only get political power, without economic power, and that no radical measures would be embarked upon to restructure and to transform the South African economy.

We now know for certain that those deals sold the struggle for liberation in South African down the drain, and instead they ensured that post apartheid South Africa would be an extremely corrupt neoliberal capitalist state and society. South Africa is now in that space – an Olympic gold medal winning corrupt neoliberal capitalist system and society.

In place of the radical and full implementation of the Freedom Charter, the ANC abandoned both the philosophy and ideology of the liberation struggle – which were based on moving South Africa out of apartheid capitalism and all its evils including corruption and environmental destruction, into a society free of racism, colonialism, patriarchy and one of shared human values, social and economic justice and a transition to socialism.

Such a society was not capable of being created on the foundation of our inherited racist and patriarchal colonial capitalism.

Secretly and publicly, the ANC sold the dream for a racism free, equal and just society for a neoliberal capitalist society, complete with the corruption that comes with that package.

Apart from accepting International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank neoliberal capitalist dogma, and guaranteeing that land justice would never take place outside the capitalist markets, here are some of the deals the ANC struck with the devil, literally and figuratively, between 1990 and 1994:

  • The ANC accepted to repay $25 billion of inherited apartheid-era foreign debt (October 1993).
  • They gave the central bank formal independence in the interim and final constitutions (November 1993 and July 1996).
  • They borrowed $850 million from the IMF with tough conditions (December 1993)
  • They reappoint apartheid finance minister Derek Keys and SA Reserve Bank governor Chris Stals (May 1994).
  • They agreed that South Africa would join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (later renamed World Trade Organisation) on disadvantageous terms (August 1994).
  • They agreed to lower the main corporate tax rate from 48% to 29% and maintain countless privileges enjoyed by wealthy white people and corporations (1994-99)
  • They agreed to privatise peripheral parts of the state (January 1995).
  • They agreed to relax exchange controls (the ‘finrand’) and raise interest rates (March 1995).
  • They granted permission to South Africa’s biggest companies to move their financial headquarters to London (1999).
  • Finally, of course, they adopt a neoliberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy (June 1996).

The adoption of the GEAR policy (June 1996) effectively buried any hope of sustaining any liberation ethos and cultures, as South Africa was now fully confirmed as a neoliberal capitalist state and society replete with all the cutthroat competition, capitalist greed and pathological craving for accumulation of wealth by all means necessary including all and extreme forms of corruption.

All that we have said above is in the public domain. Why are our own state regulators, academics and journalists not blowing the whistle? Why must it take the FBI to tell us the details of the $10 million bribe that Thabo Mbeki and Danny Jordaan made to Sepp Blatter’s cronies, and the $6 million (R80 million) that Chancellor House made from the corrupt Hitachi deal to build Medupi’s boilers?

In effect an elite has agreed to use its control of the state to allow the white racist colonial capitalist foundation of South Africa to remain intact, in the process, allowing white dominated and foreign corporations to continue with their economic activities unchanged. It has done this in exchange for a share of the spoils. We know some of them are direct beneficiaries. They are businessmen and women during the night and politicians during the day. And of course their families are crony capitalists night and day. Today, the ANC itself acknowledges this fact – just read their 2015 NGC documents.

There is no difference between the ANC and the network of public officials and private individuals who agree to corruptly allocate tenders in exchange for a share of the spoils. This behaviour is a logical and necessary corrupt character structure of the society that neoliberal capitalism thrives on.

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