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Africa energy network demands Just Transition

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25 March, 2019The Sub Saharan Africa Energy Network is demanding that governments and multinational companies must develop plans to deal with the impact of the transition to renewable energy without sacrificing jobs or creating precarious working conditions. 

The network, which is supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Trade Union Competence Centre for Sub Saharan South Africa (FES-TUCC), met 12-13 March, Johannesburg, and rejected the unbundling of state-owned enterprises as a disguise for privatization. It supported the positions taken by South African affiliates, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) which strongly oppose the recent announcement by the government that the country’s power utility, Eskom, will be broken into three parts – generation, transmission and distribution.

In Zimbabwe, the network is supporting the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority’s bring together of its companies into one but with no job losses or removing of workers’ benefits. This move is reversing an earlier decision to unbundle.

In Eswatini the network condemned unfair dismissals and suspensions. It called for the reinstatement of 11 workers. Four were dismissed and 17 suspended by the eSwatini Electricity Company after a strike in January.

Participants at the meeting were drawn from 13 Sub-Saharan African countries that organize in the energy sector including in oil and gas. Formed a few years ago, the network initially catered for Southern Africa but has since been expanded to Sub Saharan Africa.

Bastian Schulz, director, FES-TUCC says:

“A sustainable energy transition in Sub-Saharan Africa and the final energy mix is of great interest to the FES because of the impact on jobs, communities, and sustainable development policies. It must be central to the labour movement in Africa, and unions must be included in the policy making.”

Diana Junquera Curiel, IndustriALL energy industry director stressed the importance of networks:

“As part of IndustriALL’s energy networks, SSAEN will align with other networks from Asia, MENA Region and Latin America. This is important in building the strength of the network. Importantly, the ability to create a rich pool of solidarity and learning among the affiliates is useful. Experiences that resonate with national issues can be adapted. This also builds the network’s knowledge and informs its response to the current issues.”

Diana Junquera Curiel presented the Shell Campaign as an example of the work of IndustriALL Global Union to confront global capital and that existing global framework agreements in multinational companies, Total and Eni, were useful examples of global social dialogue.

Brian Kohler, IndustriALL director of health, safety and sustainability says:

“A Just Transition is a pathway towards a sustainable future and reduces fear amongst workers by promoting fairness. It rests on sustainable industrial policy, robust social protection, and creative labour adjustment programmes.”

Brian Kohler further explained the energy options that exist for Sub Saharan Africa which include biofuel, biomass, co-generation, fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas), geothermal, landfill gas, nuclear, solar (photovoltaic and thermal), tidal, wave and wind.