Woodrajh Aroun spoke to Mbulaheni Mbodi (NUMSA shop steward and National Secretary of Eskom Shopstewards Council) and Mac Chavalala (SAFTU president) who are both labour representatives on the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC).
What is your assessment of the PCC’s first year of existence?
Initially we were trying to find our footing. There have been online meetings that would be arranged as information sessions but there were always time constraints making it difficult to deal with the issues at hand. As trade unionists we were not used to this. In some meetings we would have an overload of information and less than 10 minutes to respond, irrespective of how many pages we had to endure listening to. We have managed to talk to the Deputy Chairperson about a need for in camera meetings where we will talk solidly on the agenda prioritised for serious engagements. We also understand that the commission does not vote but tries to reach consensus. We do not agree to everything and have our differences. We reserve the right therefore to have our views heard even if they [are] contrary to what most would be saying.
Do you think that labour will benefit from the work that the commission is involved in?
Indeed, there will be a benefit. There is a lot of information that ordinarily we would not even lay our eyes on if we were not on the PCC. In case anything is taking a trajectory that [would] have negative impacts to the trade unions, we would alert the trade unions such that they may engage on the issue and within the PCC itself.
In what ways will labour benefit?
There will be time to process the issues that are in the PCC through the structures of the trade union movements. As trade unionists we will push for decent and sustainable jobs as part of a transition to a low-carbon economy.
What is your view on the options on the kind of institution that the PCC should be? Why? Please motivate.
The PCC has to be transparent and open to ideas in so far as the work is concerned, especially on the speed of the transition and to identify possible constraints. The commission should consider the socio-economic challenges in the country and should be as inclusive as possible and have a bias towards the poor and the working class.
Is this the position of your union/federation?
Having been appointed as an individual how do you feedback to your organisation? Do you get mandates and do you report back?
The mandating process is informed by organisational [union] resolutions and this provides an overarching guide so that we do not work outside the boundaries of the resolutions adopted by the union and its affiliates.
How can workers and communities contribute to the work of the commission?
Through social dialogue we will seek to deepen engagement so that more people can be reached and participate in our sessions, share their concerns, ideas, etc. What is more important is to work collectively and bridge the gap between the shop floor and our communities.
(COSATU and FEDUSA PCC representatives were approached for comment but did not respond in time.)
Woodrajh Aroun is a former NUMSA Parliamentary Officer who also played an active role in the union’s energy research group after it was formed in 2011.