Q&A

Sunday Times - - Opinion - Isn’t your de­mand short-sighted? Be­cause of the wage bill. So what is the cri­sis at Eskom? Coal costs?

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.

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