One of South Africa’s powerful unions, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA),has threatened a mother of all strikes that would paralyse the nation’s economy.
The union which claims to have 350,000 members, said on Friday it was calling for a national strike over state-run power utility Eskom’s decision to shut down several coal-fired power stations.
“NUMSA is gearing up for the mother of all strikes in its bid to fight the looming crisis at Eskom… (and) is calling for a national shutdown,” the union said in a statement.
Eskom recently announced it was closing four coal powered plants at Kriel, Camden, Hendrina and Komati in Mpumalanga over the next five years.
Eskom said the closure was necessary to accommodate renewable independent power producers.
But the unions feared the action would wipe away thousands of jobs. About 30,000 jobs are at risk.
Congress of South African Trade Unions’ also said they will not support the renewable independent power producer programme if it leads to job losses.
NUMSA has meanwhile given Eskom seven days to respond to a memorandum handed over to it.
Spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said: “They never informed the union and that is our concern. Why would they jump to make an announcement when they have not spoken to the union as a stakeholder?”
“Our members are calling for that decision to be reversed with immediate effect, and Eskom has been given seven days to reply.”
“As NUMSA‚ we cannot simply sit back and allow Eskom‚ and this government to destroy the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their families‚” said general secretary Irvin Jim‚ in a statement on Friday.
“In an environment where there are high levels of poverty and escalating unemployment‚ we believe that every job counts.”
Jim said the union suspected that the closure of the power stations was a “calculated move to privatise Eskom” and create conditions for a new nuclear programme in South Africa.
NUMSA was not against a progressive energy mix‚ he said‚ but was not prepared to sacrifice jobs.
Jim said the union would mobilise across all sectors for a national shutdown.
“We will bring this economy to its knees. We will mobilise communities to hold demonstrations and pickets because this crisis affects them too‚” he said.
*Source: Reuters, Timeslive.co.za