The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) asserted on Wednesday that it had “reliably learnt” that the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation’s (Necsa’s) board was proposing to retrench 400 employees and perhaps sell public assets. These proposals were part of a turnaround strategy submitted to the Department of Energy (now part of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy), stated the union. Furthermore, Nehawu affirmed that Necsa’s executive committee had not been consulted about these proposals.
“We have since learnt that the Necsa board has intentions to close and/or sell [subsidiaries] Pelchem, Pelindaba Enterprises and Necsa property,” it added. “We call on the board to publicly confirm or deny these allegations. Similarly, [Necsa subsidiary] NTP [Radioisotopes] has intentions of selling its subsidiaries who are profitable, namely NTP Logistics, Gamma-tek and AEC Amersham. As a matter or principle we stand in opposition to the surrender of public resources to private individuals. Public resources are for public benefit!”
In its statement, the union attached the sobriquet “Mr Retrenchments” to Necsa board chairperson Dr Rob Adam. It argued that his March report to Parliament on the financial situation of the State-owned nuclear agency was done “in a manner that suggests some commitment to provide a justification to among others, retrench of [sic] workers and privatisation of State assets in general and Pelchem in particular”.
“We are disgusted with his continued anti-working class attitude because the language and agenda of retrenchments is what seems to characterise Dr Adam’s management style,” it said. “We feel validated to hold this attitude because he left Necsa in financial tatters in 2012 [Adam was Necsa CEO from 2006 to 2012] with 250 employees served with retrenchments [sic] notices. He left Necsa to join Aveng Nuclear Manufacturing division which also collapsed and retrenched its employees.”
(Nehawu averred that, after Adam had left the entity, it took just one financial year – 2012/2013 – to turn Necsa’s financial situation around and replace a R75-million deficit with an R29-million surplus. As a result, the then board was able to cancel the retrenchment of Necsa workers. The union claimed to have played a major role in achieving this result.)
Nehwau also attacked the appointment of “white males” to key posts in the State-owned company, namely Adam himself as board chairperson, Don Robertson as acting group CEO and Rico Viljoen as acting CFO. Both Robertson and Viljoen were recalled from retirement. It claimed this was a “reversal of the transformation agenda”. Also, similar things were happening at NTP, “where experienced and capable black professionals are pushed to the margins to facilitate the employment of consultants from minority groups at a huge cost and security risk”.
“Necsa’s turnaround strategy cannot be complete without placing the replacement of SAFARI-1 [research reactor] at the centre as a matter of urgency and the expansion of nuclear energy and technology in South Africa,” argued the union. “This is what the board should be grappling with if they have the interests of Necsa at heart.”
Nehawu called for the dismissal of the Necsa board. It also demanded the removal of the boards and MDs of NTP and Pelchem “because they have failed to lead these entities in compliance to safety and Nuclear Licence Installation conditions”.