‘It’s something that is going to cause a major blackout in this country’
The NUM has threatened rolling blackouts unless govt deals with its concerns over independent power producers
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has threatened a national blackout if the government does not reverse the signing of the power purchase agreements with independent power producers (IPPs).
In an interview with Times Select this week, newly-elected NUM president Joseph Montisetsi said the country would face mass blackouts if the government did not backtrack on the agreement. It also wants government to go back to the negotiating table with unions in the energy and construction sector who are opposed to introduction of IPPs into the national grid.“It is not child’s play; it’s something that is going to cause a major blackout in this country. If this thing of IPPs is not addressed, it can cause a total blackout in this country,” he said.Montisetsi said NUM was not willing to compromise on its stance that the independent power producers’ programme be scrapped. Unions opposed to the agreement estimate that up to 40,000 workers stationed at power plants in Mpumalanga alone would lose their jobs if the power purchase agreements were implemented.
“That one we are not budging on because our members are going to be severely affected by these IPPs. One of the things we are keen to [know] is, who are these IPPs?” he said.
He said the union had already had a meeting with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan over the matter, where they voiced their opposition.
Montisetsi said they were also going to meet Energy Minister Jeff Radebe to indicate their unhappiness at his failure to consult with energy stakeholders, especially the unions, before signing the IPP deal.He said NUM was not opposed to alternative energy sources, but their concern was the loss of jobs for their members working at Eskom coal-fired power stations.
His comments come as NUM, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Solidarity have deadlocked with Eskom over wage increases. They have rejected a 5% offer made by the power utility to their members and are holding out for 12%.
The unions downed tools when Eskom first suggested that there would be no increases this year. After protest action led to load-shedding, national government was forced to intervene. Gordhan, ultimately, took the 0% offer off the table.
Meanwhile, NUM also said it wanted Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe to intervene at Sibanye-Stillwater mine after the latest deaths of five mineworkers brought the death toll there to 20 – for this year alone.
Montsietsi said NUM would embark on a march to the Chamber of Mines in two weeks’ time, when they would demand that the mine’s shareholders sack its board of directors for failure to hold management accountable for safety issues.
“We realised that the board of directors of Sibanye does not care about the lives of people. Remember, the board of directors is the structure which appointed the CEO, and the CEO must be able to make managers to account for their actions,” he said.
The newly-elected NUM leader said he would try and persuade his union to file a lawsuit to force Sibanye-Stillwater to compensate families of the mineworkers who died while on duty.