PORT ELIZABETH- The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) will march with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Saturday to protest against retrenchments at Eskom, secretary general of the union, Irvin Jim said in a statement.

Jim also said that it was opposing the closure of coal mines and the government's renewable energy programme, the Independent Power Producer Project (IPP).

The Numsa secretary general said the union had tried to interdict the department of energy after learning of its plans to finalise IPP contracts in March. 

Calling for a just transition (JT) that would mitigate the negative consequences of a change from coal (fossil fuel) to renewable energy, Jim said Numsa vehemently opposed the IPP programme, citing the high cost to Eskom from these entities for the production of renewable energy. 

"It costs Eskom 40c per kWh to produce electricity through nuclear, and the cost of coal is less than R1. But Eskom pays R2,22 from IPP’s which it then sells to the consumer at 85c. 

"What kind of nonsensical, impractical arrangement is this? It is obvious that the state is deliberately trying to collapse Eskom! It is our duty as the working class to defend this valuable SOE," Jim said.

"Eskom should go back to its mandate of ensuring that the entire nation is electrified. It should be providing free electricity for all and affordable electricity for industry.

"A Just Transition is one where the transition from coal to renewable energy does not negatively affect workers and the community at large, and, it must not disadvantage the next generation. Instead, the transition we are experiencing will worsen the conditions for the working class," Jim said.

Numsa defended its decision to march with NUM, an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which had expelled the former for opposing the African National Congress (ANC). 

"We are participating in this march because we believe it is consistent with our commitment to advancing the interests of the working class ... the challenges facing workers at Eskom, affect us all, regardless of union affiliation. 

"This is a battle for our survival and this is why we believe that unity of the working class on this issue is paramount."

The job loss from the IPPs will number about 92,000, as the state would close down five coal-fired power stations in Mpumalanga, Numsa said. 

The union also said it rejected calls for the privatisation of all state-owned enterprises (SOEs). "We reject privatisation as it will mean that that electricity costs will skyrocket, making electricity less accessible to the poor and working class, and, increasing the cost of doing business."

The union further said that Eskom had been the "victim of gross mismanagement and looting by some senior executive managers and the board" but instead of taking responsibility for these atrocities, management at the utility and the government were punishing the workers for their failures.

The march will start at Burgers Park in Pretoria at 11am.

- African News Agency