The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) condemned the privatisation of energy generation to "capitalist companies" and expressed its support for a call for social ownership of the renewable energy project.
Energy Minister Jeff Radebe announced that a new bidding window for the next phase of independent power producers (IPPs) would be launched in November, which he expected would inject R40bn-R50bn investment into the country, add an estimated 1800MW of electricity to the national grid and create at least 5 000 jobs during construction.
These projects would add to the 27 renewable contracts which he signed earlier this year.
"Saftu is in favour of using renewable resources - sun, wind and water - to generate electricity and reduce the reliance of coal, which is both non-renewable and harmful to the environment and the health of the people around coal-fired power stations," said general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.
However, he said the transition had to be done in a way that protected the livelihoods of mining and energy workers and the lives of communities most affected by environmental pollution.
"Radebe's plans will do the opposite. 40 000 jobs will be lost, as mines, mostly in Mpumalanga, are closed. Thousands of families will suffer poverty and unemployment, in a nation already with 36% [joblessness] and more than half the population living in abject poverty," he said.
Vavi was of the view that capitalism was the cause of global warming, climate change and the destruction of ecosystems. He said workers should not pay the price for their bosses' irresponsibility by losing their jobs in mines and power stations, because of handing over power generation to IPPs.
"Saftu rejects the minister's false narrative that IPP's will create 61 000 jobs. Most existing renewable energy companies do not employ many workers, when compared to Eskom, and do not offer the same salaries, benefits or improved working conditions," he said.
"The is why NUMSA and Transform SA recently sought, but were refused, a court interdict against the further privatisation of energy generation, from renewable sources to IPPs."
Vavi said they agreed with NUMSA's view that the path to a low carbon economy had to be based on worker-controlled, democratic social ownership of key means of production and means of subsistence.
"There is a need for long term collective planning of wealth and production and how needs are met."
Vavi said privatisation would do nothing to reverse South Africa's crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality, but would only make it worse.
"Saftu calls for a united response led by NUMSA and NUM to the privatisation of energy generation and for a total rejection of Eskom's proposed 0% wage increase."
"The issue of just transition from carbon economy to renewable energy will form an important element of the forthcoming Working Class Summit," he said.