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Government will only interfere to save jobs – Gordhan

Publish date: 27 November 2019
Issue Number: 314
Diary: Legalbrief Workplace
Category: Labour

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has refuted suggestions that government is interfering with the work of boards and executives at state-owned companies, such as Eskom, but has also indicated that he will not stand by should decisions be made that lead to significant job losses. Mining Weekly reports that in response to questions posed by lawmakers during a briefing on the so-called Eskom Special Paper to the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises, Gordhan said there had been ‘no interference, as far as I’m concerned’. ‘But if you (hear us say) “don’t fire 16 000 people”, and you consider that to be interference, well I’m sorry, we are going to interfere, because it matters whether you put 16 000 families into the street as far as the ANC is concerned.’ Gordhan urged labour, business, government and communities to come together to find different ways of redeploying those Eskom employees whose jobs could be affected by the decommissioning of the older power stations.

Full Mining Weekly report

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday told workers and staff at Medupi power station six times in an address that Eskom would not be sold off or privatised, reports Polity. The President told workers and staff that privatising Eskom would be like selling the family silver. ‘You don’t do that’. He said it was necessary to split Eskom unto three divisions – generation, transmission, and distribution – saying this was needed to improve its efficiency and make it competitive. ‘It is not privitisation.’ The National Union of Mineworkers has said it was against plans to split the power utility into three because it would result in job losses.

Full Polity report

Cosatu says it will hold discussions on economic policy with its political allies, the ANC and SACP in the next two weeks, which will include identifying state assets that can be partially privatised. Business Day reports that this is according to the trade union federation's spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, who dismissed a City Press report that Cosatu had done a ‘180-degree turn’ on its policy and now believed that state-owned entities (SOEs) should be privatised. ‘Cosatu has a resolution on privatisation that has not changed. It was always a strategic and nuanced position … .’ At the next political council of the alliance, planned for the beginning of December, Cosatu was open to talking about non-strategic SOEs or enterprises that required capital injection as part of a discussion on economic policy, Pamla said. ‘Cosatu will entertain the case for a strategic equity partner for SAA, but our conditions are that the state should remain a majority shareholder,’ said Pamla.

Full Business Day report

However, the SACP says it will wait for Cosatu’s central executive committee decision before it comments on the ‘shocking’ decision by the labour federation to back privatisation. Political analyst Xolani Dube said in an IoL report that it the change of stance was surprising not because they were backing privatisation but because they were publicly saying so. He said Cosatu has always been used by its leaders to get deployments in government while pretending to fight for the working class.

Full IoL report