Trade unions have rejected president Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to split Eskom into three business units, City Press reported.
The trade unions believe the change is the first step towards privatising the power utility, and will lead to job losses.
South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi called the move a “declaration of war” and said they plan to retaliate by protesting in parliament during finance minister Tito Mboweni’s budget speech in February.
Saftu said it would initiate a national shutdown in March, to protest the unbundling plan.
Cosatu told the City Press that unions would be willing to negotiate with the government on Eskom, but it would not accept any move towards privatisation of the power utility or any job losses.
“This is their mess, they can unbundle five times if they want to but no job should be lost even if it means they have to reskill the workers, they should do that,” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.
Power utility Eskom is in crisis, according to president Ramaphosa, and it needs to completely restructure its business model.
While delivering his state of the nation address on Thursday, Ramaphosa said that the power utility will operate as Eskom Holdings, and will will focus on generation, transmission and distribution.
According to the president, Eskom has come up with a nine-point turnaround plan, which is supported by government.
“In line with this plan, Eskom will need to take urgent steps to significantly reduce its costs. It will need more revenue through an affordable tariff increase,” he said.
Steps also need to be taken to reduce municipal non-payment and confront the culture of non-payment that exists in some communities.
“It is imperative that all those who use electricity – over and above the free basic electricity provided – should pay for it.”
Government will also support Eskom’s balance sheet, and the minister of finance will provide further details on this in the budget speech.
“It is imperative that we undertake these measures without delay to stabilise Eskom’s finances, ensure security of electricity supply, and establish the basis for long-term sustainability,” the president said.
The easiest way to rescue ailing state power utility Eskom would be for the government to assume part of its R419 billion debt, chief executive officer Phakamani Hadebe said in an interview last week.
“The debt swap is easy for the government,” Hadebe said, shortly after president Ramaphosa’s announcement.