Unions to act against Eskom unbundling

While Mboweni criticises lack of progress.
Unions report nonsensical moves, such as a geologist from Sandton being sent to work as an engineer at a power station 200km away. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

The unbundling of Eskom might hit a new snag as trade unions are considering their options due to a lack of consultation.

When delivering his emergency budget speech on Wednesday Finance Minister Tito Mboweni however said progress is too slow, with a veiled threat that this could put the R230 billion government assistance it was provisionally allocated over 10 years in jeopardy.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan published a roadmap to a transformed energy supply industry in October last year. The document set out the steps to legally separate Eskom’s generation, transmission and distribution functions into three different companies within the Eskom group. The transmission company will also be the home of an independent market operator that will buy electricity from different suppliers in a competitive market.

According to the roadmap the legal separation had to be completed by the end of next year, but Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter recently told a parliamentary committee that it will only be achieved in 2023.


De Ruyter prefers the term “divisionalisation” and has stated that much progress has been made with the functional separation of the three divisions, with each one now having a CEO and board appointed from Eskom staff.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will on Friday decide what steps it will take against Eskom for proceeding with the restructuring of Eskom into the three divisions without properly consulting staff.

In the meantime, trade union Solidarity has given Eskom until Friday to stop the redeployment of staff currently working in its Group Technology division, failing which it will apply for a court order to stop the process. It also cites a lack of consultation, according to sector coordinator Tommy Wedderspoon.

This redeployment, referred to as “relinking”, is one of the early processes towards unbundling and entails the transfer of staff from Eskom’s head office Megawatt Park in Sandton to the generation, transmission and distribution divisions.

That mostly means that staff must relocate to power stations located hundreds of kilometers away.

National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola confirmed that the union is also vehemently opposed to the unbundling and has lodged a dispute against the relinking with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), as has Solidarity.

The three unions have also lodged a joint grievance internally with Eskom regarding the ‘relinking’ of about 50 of their members, said Thinus Jacobs from Solidarity.

Jacobs said the relinking impacts about 1 400 Eskom staff, not all negatively.

Moves that don’t make sense

Some of the moves however don’t make sense, he says. In one case, a senior geologist has been transferred from Megawatt Park to a position as production engineer at a power station 200km away. In another, someone who has worked at Eskom as a design engineer for 12 years has been transferred to a power station as production engineer.

Meanwhile, a metallurgical engineer has been redeployed as a mechanical engineer.

Some members have been transferred from Sandton to the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station near Cape Town, all without formal consultation.

Jacobs says the employer was initially accommodating and willing to allow affected employees to delay their moves until their children had finished the school year, but now they are being threatened that they will be charged with absconding and pay will be withheld, unless they report to their new stations.

The law is clear

According to labour expert Chris Jacobs, a director at OIM International, the Labour Relations Act is clear. An employer is obliged to consult even when it merely contemplates restructuring, whether it entails retrenchments or not.

He says employers are sometimes arrogant and take chances, but if they fail to follow the prescribed procedures the whole process could be derailed.

He says at Eskom the unions should insist on proper consultations about the end state of the unbundling, because it will change the identity of the employer. “That is the person who pays your salary, who you report to, and whose disciplinary process you can be subjected to,” he says.

Failing to address the end state could result in a situation where the employer changes the work environment gradually until a point of no return has been reached, without the workers ever having had their say.

Eskom would not comment out of respect for the CCMA process.

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This depicts the upside-down world of communism. In a capitalist society, the property owner has rights. The employer purchase labour at an agreed price from the employee. After the job has been completed, and the wage has been paid, the worker has no claim against the employer. That is the end of the transaction. If a farmer sells me a tomato at an agreed price, that farmer cannot come to my house after a week and demand more money from me. The tomato farmer cannot picket in front of my house and burn my car because he wants more money for that tomato, or demand that I purchase more of his tomatoes. It would be most silly of that farmer to demand that I enter into negotiations with him if I decide to rather purchase pears from someone else.

In the world of labour unions, the workers believe that their job is their “property”. They believe they “own” that job and that they can “protect” “their jobs” with militant action like property owners in a free market protect their property from invaders. Union members see non-members as the enemy, they see the unemployed as invaders. They see non-members as plunderers who are out to steal their “property”. Union members look to the state to implement labour laws to protect “their jobs” against other citizens from the same country who are willing to sell their labour at a more competitive price. In this way, citizens are not equal under the law. The labour law creates a new privileged class, a new Bourgeois, and banishes the unemployed to a lifetime of poverty.

The employer and the employees cannot own the same property at the same time. The business, with capital investment in plant and equipment, that creates job opportunities, cannot belong to the shareholders and to the workers at the same time. In South Africa, the socialist law takes the property rights of the owners, breaks it down through a process of degeneration, and transfers those rights to the labour unions. The real owners hold a title-deed or a share certificate, but in effect, the rights to that property have been taken over by the unions with the help of the state.

This is why we do not get any new investments in plant and equipment and why the value of existing plant and equipment is deteriorating. The property has been transferred to the new wealthy elite, the union members. The unemployment figure, the Debt/GDP ratio plus the budget deficit tells us that the labour unions have stolen the property rights of the employers.

To add to that, being a member of a union and “owning” that “property” (job) does not necessarily mean that you know how to “own” the “property” ie do the job.

But owning the property (being management) also does not mean you know how to run it either, looking at some of those daft moves made.

Sensei, absolutely spot on

Excellent analogy. 1000…. up votes for this. But remember we are dealing with a gangster state, ably assisted by gangster unions.

I believe we have heard this little ditty before.

A good symbolic start would be to empty and then sell Megawatt park – can pay off quite a bit of debt too. Many people over the years said head office was filled with fat & lazy but clever desk jockeys that could not fix anything but told the real engineers and technicians how to. By email.

Ex Chairman of Eskom, John Maree once walked through Megawatt park at night switching off all the lights not needed.

A security guard told him it was company policy to have every light burning 24/7. The chairman said the policy just changed it is a waste, like those lazy useless pen pushers in those offices today.

He also walked through one day asking each person what they did. If they could not tell him immediately he arranged for their departure.

Somebody go and find John Maree, his services are required pronto

And then he departed !!! Sensible stuff does not work in RSA >

This was Jaco Maree’s father he has long past on.

The unions creates joblessness

There are business disrupters and then there are the unions. Surely we can get a study that show what portion of job losses are attributable to this untouchable and destructive industry. It seems as long as you and your members will vote ANC at the next election you can do as you please and stuff everybody else.

You can’t operate probably in SA with these unions.always try to milk the employer to extreme.many took their businesses/ideas overseas.

End of comments.





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