Thursday, August 28, 2008

COSATU Says Power Strike Vindicated Mass Action in South Africa

Cosatu says power strike vindicated

Aug 27 2008 14:12

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said admissions made at a conference on the mining industry's response to the power crisis "totally vindicated" its campaign of mass action.

The federation said the statement by National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) CEO Smunda Mokoena that Eskom's load shedding earlier this year cost the economy R50-billion confirmed Cosatu's view that the energy crisis posed a real threat of job losses and an economic slowdown.

"It flatly contradicts the assurance given by Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin in January that 'the government is confident that through the reduction of electricity use, the current healthy growth could be maintained'."

At the conference, the Chamber of Mines predicted that investment in the mining industry over the next five years was likely to be reduced by between R16-billion and R25-billion because of the 10% power reduction forced on mines.

The chamber's economist, Roger Baxter, said a survey of mining companies had found that jobs were at risk. Employment was expected to drop "substantially" if reduction in the power supply was maintained.

Andrew Etzinger, Eskom spokesperson, said that Eskom "recognises the effect on the economy of the power cuts".

Patrick Craven, the union group's spokesperson, said on Wednesday that it is more determined than ever to fight to save all the jobs that are now on the line. The federation said it was committed to support the national campaign to reduce electricity consumption and find a lasting solution to the crisis. Cosatu is part of a task team developing a consolidated stakeholder response to proposed interventions to address the electricity crisis.

Craven said Cosatu stood by its demand that the cost of the power cuts not be borne by the poorest in society, that workers were not retrenched as a result of the power cuts and that the electrification programme to poor households was not compromised.

"Workers and the poor must not have to pay, through either higher tariffs or losing their jobs, for a crisis that is the fault of a government error in not providing Eskom with the money they insisted they needed to build new generating capacity in the late 1990s, when they were planning to privatise the public utility," he said. – I-Net Bridge

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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