NUM to Ramaphosa on Eskom: No job cuts, no split, fire the board

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The National Union of Mineworkers is against any plan to split the country’s indebted power utility because it will result in job losses.

There is "uncertainty" rather than job security at Eskom, NUM President Joseph Montisetse said Wednesday in an interview at his office in Johannesburg. The union, which has about 15 000 members at Eskom, says the company could return to profit by investing in coal mining, exporting the fuel and selling more electricity to South Africa’s neighbours.

Ramaphosa is due to deliver his State of the Nation address Thursday and is expected to unveil new measures to help Eskom. The president announced the plan to divide the company into generation, transmission and distribution units in February. He also vowed to avoid cutting jobs, despite Eskom having about 47 000 workers, a figure the World Bank has said is 66% too high, and debt of at least R440 billion.

NUM is prepared to hear what Ramaphosa has to say in his speech, but so far "we are not happy with what the president has promised’" in terms of job security, Montisetse said.

"We don’t believe the unbundling can be a cure for this disease,’" he said. NUM wants a total bailout for the utility and a new board in order to make the business profitable again, he said.

While Eskom last year said it would set a budget to return to a partial investment in coal mining, a third of the utility’s plants that burn the fuel will be at the end of their lifespan by 2023.

Montisetse said the stations can be rebuilt in order to extend their lives. "We can’t agree for our members to be cut from work," he said. "We believe that we need a credible management to hire even more people."

Ramaphosa met with members of the Eskom board in Cape Town earlier this week.

A statement from the Presidency at the time said Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan were also in attendance at the meeting at Genadendal Residence. 

Ramaphosa called on the ministers to establish alignment across government on the actions "to be undertaken to stabilise the energy utility in light of its financial and operational challenges".

The Eskom board, meanwhile, presented a report on the implementation of its nine-point plan to turn the debt-laden power utility around.

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