JOHANNESBURG, February 6 – A few months after warning Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba not to dip into the government pension fund to rescue struggling state enterprises, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Monday it “grudgingly supports” the R5 billion Eskom bailout by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
“We understand the role of Eskom in our economy and we are also thinking of the impact that an implosion of Eskom will have on the economy and jobs in general. We also remain adamant that the power utility should remain in the hands of the state,” the trade union federation said in a statement.
“This arrangement though should not be viewed as a blank cheque and since the process of turning around Eskom is partially funded by the workers’ retirement savings, we expect that the jobs of Eskom workers will remain safe.”
Cosatu’s affiliate, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), had in August last year rebuked a mooted bailout using government pension funds to ailing national carrier South African Airways.
The public sector union warned Gigaba it would not stand idle while workers’ hard earned money is used to “fund a looting spree”.
“We are vehemently opposed to the abuse of employees’ retirement funds to rescue the mismanagement and corruption taking place at SAA. Even government has refused to use state resources to bail out poor performing state-owned companies, including SAA, and this baffles us as to why workers’ retirement funds should be used to bail out the flagging airline,” Nehawu said at the time.
Two months later, Cosatu leaders told Parliament’s standing committee on appropriations that it would embark on a national strike if money from the PIC is used to rescue SAA. “Government must not take this warning lightly. Teachers, nurses, police officers, prison wardens, doctors… public servants across the board will not hesitate to go on strike if government thinks it can allow the PIC and their pensions to be looted,” Cosatu said to members of the committee.
PIC administers the GEPF, the country’s largest pension fund. It said the cash-strapped Eskom approached it for funding which it approved after completing due diligence.
Eskom has been marred by allegations of corruption and state capture, leading to Parliament’s public enterprises committee establishing an inquiry into the affairs of the state-owned enterprise. The power utility has also been dogged by scandals of dodgy contracts which have defrauded the power utility of millions of rand, including a R1.6 billion payment unlawfully made to Trillian Capital and global consultancy McKinsey.
– African News Agency (ANA)