S.Africa: Cosatu calls for strike

Cosatu is planning a national strike in protest against electricity tariff increases and the government’s intention to allow independent power producers in on the action.

The trade union federation, an ally of the ANC, also expressed outrage at the news that the ruling party holds a 25% stake Hitachi Africa, the company that won a tender to supply boilers to two new multibillion-rand power stations for Eskom.

In the latest sign of a widening gap between Cosatu and President Jacob Zuma, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi stopped just short of accusing the head of state of implementing policies that were in conflict with the ANC’s.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday following a three-day meeting of Cosatu’s central executive committee, Vavi said the federation planned to embark on “strike action and street protests against increases which will devastate poor consumers, push up inflation” and lead to the loss of over 200,000 jobs.

He did not announce a date for the strike. Cosatu’s lawyers are submitting notice of the federation’s intention of embarking on strike action.

Cosatu said it had the full backing of other union federations, including the Federation of Unions of SA and the National Council of Trade Unions.

During the press conference, Vavi said Zuma’s announcement that independent power producers will be introduced to compete with Eskom would not solve the electricity crisis.

“We remain opposed to the privatisation of power-generating capacity and of the provision of electricity. Accordingly, we completely reject the introduction of independent power producers,” Vavi said.

“Privatisation is not an answer. It will increase and not decrease the prices. It will sideline those who want access to electricity, and will make the current price increases look like a Sunday-school picnic. We are going to the streets on this matter.”

Vavi said the labour federation was concerned about recent reports that the ANC’s investment arm, Chancellor House, had a 25% stake in Hitachi Africa.

“The problem with this is that the ANC will not be able to ward off genuine concerns that it might have decided to accept the extraordinarily high tariffs imposed on the poor and industry. Because it stands to benefit. If it is true that the ANC Company has invested in Eskom, then God help us all,” he said.

The Cosatu leader went on to accuse Zuma of “smuggling” privatisation into his state of the nation speech last month, saying it had not been agreed to by the ANC and its alliance partners.

Source: timeslive online, 20100305

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