Wage talks between unions and Eskom continue, with the power utility arguing that pay demands are unaffordable. Chris Barron asked IRVIN JIM, general secretary of metalworkers union Numsa . . . No.
The higher Eskom’s wage bill, the more workers it’ll have to cut, surely?
The workers at Eskom are like any other workers who are affected by the state of the economy. When VAT is imposed, when the petrol price goes up and there’s food inflation. Workers at Eskom are not immune from the rising cost of living and deserve to get an increase.
Is the current size of the workforce sustainable?
Why must the workers pay for Eskom’s problems? The view is that when there are challenges facing Eskom the workers are soft targets.
Is it sustainable for Eskom to have a headcount of 48 000 when it has a cash crisis?
Why do you think the crisis of Eskom is workers?
We can tell you, if you choose to get out of your comfort zone, what the crisis at Eskom is.
It’s centred around four areas. The first is primary coal.
It’s not just about coal costs. It’s about the fact that those cost-plus mines have been milking Eskom. That’s not the workers’ fault. It’s the fault of management and the board that are supposed to be managing those cost-plus mines properly.
What about wages increasing 140% in 10 years?
I refuse to agree that the problems at Eskom are to do with workers’ wages. The second area is the reckless decision to connect [independent power producers] . . .
Don’t you support the CO2 reduction targets signed by your government alliance partners?
I’ll come back to that later. In 2001 Eskom had about 80 top executives, today they’re around 600. If Eskom wants to ask questions about labour they need to deal with their bloated executive structure. Address these areas and Eskom’s balance sheet will be fine and they’ll be able to give workers increases which they deserve.
Productivity has fallen. Are you saying they must get more for doing less?
If there was not this greed of connecting IPPs at all costs because particular individuals stand to benefit . . .
Is a workforce of 48 000 where productivity and sales are down sustainable?
If we were not connecting the IPPs these workers would be in demand. What is destroying their jobs are IPPs that cannot stand on their own . . .
Isn’t the bottom line that Eskom has to fill a R55-billion gap this financial year or default?
Can you make your point?
What would be the impact on jobs if it defaults?
If it were to take off the grid those IPPs, Eskom will generate profits and be able to service its loans.
What about the CO2 targets?
You can’t just wake up one morning and decide you’re going to destroy your economy, your jobs, because you want to look good. We should go for an energy mix, but these IPPs are costing far more than the nuclear Zuma was rejected for.