1 000

Union mem­bers up in arms at power util­ity’s de­ci­sion to end con­tract with em­ployer

CityPress - - Busi­ness - SU­SAN COM­RIE su­san.com­rie@city­press.co.za

ore than 1 000 em­ploy­ees of an Mpumalanga coal mine stand to lose their jobs when the mine’s con­tract with Eskom ex­pires next month.

On Tues­day, em­ploy­ees of Exxaro’s Arnot Coal Mine are due to march to the com­pany’s of­fices to voice their anger and frus­tra­tions with Eskom.

The Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM) said Eskom dropped a bomb­shell on its mem­bers in Septem­ber when it wrote to Exxaro to in­form it that the mine’s 40-year con­tract would lapse at the end of De­cem­ber.

The let­ter, dated Septem­ber 8 this year and signed by Eskom’s se­nior man­ager for coal op­er­a­tions, Pet­ros Maz­ibuko, says it “serves as a re­minder that the ex­piry date of the CSA [coal sup­ply agree­ment] is 31 De­cem­ber 2015” and asks Exxaro to ad­dress nu­mer­ous is­sues, in­clud­ing “mine clo­sure and other re­lated costs”.

The NUM’s branch sec­re­tary, Mx­olisi Hoboyi, said ne­go­ti­a­tions to ex­tend the con­tract be­yond 2015 started in 2013 and the union thought this was still the case.

“The first in­for­ma­tion was given to us in mid-Septem­ber,” he said. “The ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship was at Arnot and we were in­formed by HR that there was an ur­gent meet­ing con­vened at the mine man­ager’s of­fice. It was then that we were in­formed about the let­ter – the let­ter was re­ceived a week be­fore.”

On Novem­ber 4, the union wrote to Eskom CEO Brian Molefe re­quest­ing an ur­gent meet­ing to dis­cuss the po­ten­tial loss of 1 139 per­ma­nent jobs, as well as the jobs of 546 con­trac­tors.

The let­ter says: “We view this as a se­ri­ous con­cern, tak­ing into ac­count the cur­rent rate of un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try, which is 25%.

“We are humbly re­quest­ing your of­fice to pri­ori­tise an ur­gent meet­ing with the NUM lead­er­ship to dis­cuss this mat­ter fur­ther.” Hoboyi said: “Up to this day, Brian Molefe has not re­sponded.” Arnot is a cost-plus mine, mean­ing that Eskom pays the costs of the mine and Exxaro earns a man­age­ment fee. Tra­di­tion­ally, this ar­range­ment has worked in Eskom’s favour, but as pro­duc­tion has de­clined at Arnot, the mine has strug­gled to meet its de­liv­ery tar­get of an an­nual 5 mil­lion tons to Eskom’s 2 100 megawatt Arnot power sta­tion and costs have rapidly es­ca­lated.

“We’re march­ing to the mine, but the tar­get of the mem­o­ran­dum is gov­ern­ment and Eskom.

“Govern­ment must in­ter­vene to save these 1 700 jobs. Eskom must do the hon­ourable thing and give Exxaro an ex­ten­sion of the con­tract,” said Hoboyi. Although Eskom had is­sued a for­mal re­quest for pro­posal for new sup­pli­ers for Arnot in Au­gust, Eskom and Exxaro con­firmed this week that dis­cus­sions were still on­go­ing.

“The ne­go­ti­a­tions … are at a very sen­si­tive stage and there­fore we are not in a po­si­tion to pro­vide any fur­ther de­tails un­til this mat­ter has been re­solved,” Eskom spokesper­son Khulu Phasiwe said on Thurs­day night.

Exxaro’s Mzila Mthen­jane said on Fri­day: “We are still in dis­cus­sions with Eskom on the is­sue. We are con­scious and con­cerned about the po­ten­tial for neg­a­tive con­se­quences on Arnot mine em­ploy­ees. We hope to re­solve the is­sues … through dis­cus­sions with Eskom in a mu­tu­ally favourable way.”

Eskom added that it ex­pected all ne­go­ti­a­tions to be fi­nalised by the end of De­cem­ber, but would not elab­o­rate on what this meant.

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