Cosatu threatens strike over Eskom price hike

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will on Thursday give the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) notice of its intention to strike over the 25% Eskom tariff increases.

The section 77 notice would be handed to Nedlac “sometime” on Thursday, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said in Johannesburg.

“We are in discussions already with the minister of public enterprises [Barbara Hogan], and have agreed she will pull in the minister of the environment [Buyelwa Sonjica] and the business community at a more senior level.

“They have agreed to be part of a task team to see if they can find an alternative to the 25% [price hike].”

Nonetheless, Cosatu could not “put all our eggs in the basket of negotiations”.

He was speaking after a three-day National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) national bargaining council.

Even though it was handing over the strike notice, it would continue to engage with the government.

The notice was an attempt to force a settlement.

“I hope we will find one another. I think it is in the interests of the country that we find one another and reach a settlement that avoids the mass mobilisation that Cosatu is committed to. If we find one another … there will be no strike.”

However, if a settlement could not be found and the 25% increase was reflected on bills at the end of April “then at that time we will start a series of several stayaways and mass action”.

Cosatu also had “no intention” of disrupting the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and wanted it to be one of the most successful in Fifa’s history.

The tournament starts in June.

“We can’t stop rolling mass action because of the World Cup,” Vavi said.

The need to protect the 250 000 jobs that could be lost because of the increase was “bigger than the World Cup”.

“We can’t say: ‘White flags, World Cup. We will continue after the World Cup’. Our argument is that the government and business must come now and find a settlement [before the] end of April so we are not subject to the 25% increase.”

Vavi said that, among other things, the task team should investigate how the African National Congress was going to benefit from the hike through its private investment firm and whether this constituted a conflict of interest.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said that although the union had not quantified the exact impact the increase would have on its sector, it was “going to be very serious”.

It would cost PG Glass alone an estimated R50-million, he said.

Jim said the union backed Cosatu’s call for an inflation-related increase.

Eskom asked the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) for 35% price increases in each of the next three years to help raise funds for its R385-billion power-expansion programme.

Instead, Nersa approved a 24,8% increase from April 1 this year, 25,8% in 2011 and 25,9% in 2012.

Nersa had approved an allowed revenue of R85-billion for 2010, R109-bilion for 2011 and R141-billion for 2012, said its chairperson, Cecilia Khuzwayo.

As a result of the increases, the average standard price of electricity would rise to 41,57 cents a kilowatt hour in 2010/11, 52,3 cents in 2011/12, and 65,85 cents in 2012/13.

“As Numsa, we reject the unjustifiable and skyrocketing electricity tariff increases and privatisation in Eskom,” said Jim.

“We demand that government intervene and roll back these increases and privatisation, which have an adverse affect on working-class communities.

“We will mobilise our members to join en masse the call by our federation, Cosatu, for a strike against the Eskom increases.”

Numsa represents 234 000 metalworkers in the automotive assembly and tyre manufacturing industries, the motor sector, iron and steel houses and at Eskom.

At its national bargaining council meeting, Numsa agreed its core demand this year would be for what Jim called a “modest” 20% wage increase. — Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Carol Hills
Carol Hills works from Boston. Political cartoon & graphic journalism desk @pritheworld. Global images that reflect, make & break the news. Edited by Carol Hills. Carol Hills has over 25992 followers on Twitter.

Related stories


Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories

R2.3bn VBS trial expected to only begin in 2022

The state is expected to request a 16 week-long trial, as delays stymie progress in the saga.

Spy boss tells how agency was used to detain Zuma’s...

Day two of State Security Agency testimony at the Zondo commission birthed more revelations that point to the former head of state and agents breaking the law

Covax will take excess doses of Covid vaccines off the...

The global initiative plans to deliver two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to developing nations

Eastern Cape citizens don’t have to visit the labour department...

This measure, aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, may shortly be introduced in other regions.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…