DURBAN – Trade union Solidarity said on Friday that its mandate was to protect pension money and it would "strongly oppose" any attempts to finance SOEs with the funds, which could include court action.
"Pension money represents the red line and Solidarity will not sit back and watch how people’s pensions are being looted," said Connie Mulder, head of the union’s research institute.
Trade union federation COSATU said on Thursday that one of the proposed economic interventions to get embattled power utility Eskom flush again could entail using state pensions to pay off its R450 billion debt.
“Solidarity finds it inconceivable that COSATU would propose that any pension monies be used to settle Eskom’s debt. This is the epitome of the ruling alliance’s intentions to put your money where their mouth is.
"Solidarity will leave no stone unturned – pension funds should not be used to fund government’s failed ideology,” said Mulder.
Under the Pension Funds Act and the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) the trustees of pension funds must take all reasonable steps to ensure that members’ interests are protected at all times.
It is therefore the trustees’ role and responsibility to manage the retirement fund and to ensure that all decisions are made in accordance with the legal rules that apply to retirement funds.
Trustees must act in the best interests of the fund’s members to ensure that they get the best return on their investments, said Mulder.
“Pension monies do not merely represent figures on a balance sheet – every pension fund is a lifetime’s contributions by a worker. It is absurdly reckless to want to use this money to stop the gaps caused by the government’s corruption and mismanagement.
"Pension fund trustees have a fiduciary duty to the workers and not to the government. Solidarity calls on the trustees to make decisions that will be in the interest of the workers, and that they therefore will reject this proposal,” said Mulder.
“Under the ANC and its alliance partners, South Africa has followed the archaic ideology of centralisation and nationalisation – and has reaped its predictable consequences in the form of loadshedding and corruption.
"To insist that this failed ideology should be further funded by ordinary citizens’ pension money is akin to thinking a good quality sling shot is going to bring down an aeroplane. The solution rather lies in private alternatives for power generation."
COSATU was welcome to invest its members’ pensions in Eskom without their approval, but Solidarity’s members and their pensions came first, he said.
"We will do everything in our power to ensure that our members’ pension money is kept safely out of reach of the state’s clutches.”
– African News Agency (ANA)