UPDATED: Eskom denies plans to get rid of 500 white maintenance staff

Article has been updated with Eskom’s media statement below.

By Dirk Hermann 

While the country is reeling from loadshedding, Eskom wants to get rid of another 500 white males by 2025, mainly people who are responsible for maintenance work. This is according to Eskom’s latest race plan (their so-called “Employment Equity Plan”) for 2023 to 2025.

In a letter issued by Solidarity’s legal team addressed to Eskom, Solidarity asks for a moratorium on race-based appointments at Eskom as a measure to help address the power crisis.

In the letter Solidarity points out that there is an urgent need in South Africa for the deployment of best skills in jobs regardless of race. There are competent black and white artisans at Eskom and in the general population, and those are the people Eskom should recruit, based on their ability to help solve the power crisis and without looking at the colour of their skin.

Solidarity also mentions in the letter that it reserves the right to go to court should Eskom continue with the implementation of its race targets.

“We do not see in the plan that Eskom is making plans to address its skills challenges. This plan is all about skin colour at the various job levels,” Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann said.

Eskom has just announced a huge tariff increase but instead of addressing its skills problem, it is only paying attention to race targets, according to Solidarity.

“These absurd race targets come amid the fact that power station maintenance is one of Eskom’s major challenges. Eskom should now focus on one thing only, and that is not race, but power. South Africans do not need race targets but light in their homes and power for their businesses,” Hermann explained. “Targets such as these discourage existing staff members and also imply that competent white persons cannot apply for jobs to help solve the crisis. Also, it makes it nearly impossible to appoint some of the hundreds of experts who have offered their services to assist Eskom because they have the wrong skin colour.”

Solidarity also points out that Eskom has a long history of an aggressive race policy. Between 1994 and 2002 at least 10, 207 white people left Eskom. From about 2000, Eskom has paid R1,8 billion in terms of current rand value for packages to get rid of white people. This rapid loss of skills led to a huge loss of expertise and institutional knowledge.

“Eskom has learnt nothing from this. It is still pursuing its race programme, even in the dark,” Hermann concluded.

Solidarity is also preparing a court case to get Eskom exempted from black economic empowerment requirements. According to Solidarity, black economic empowerment is costing Eskom billions and a tariff increase would not have been necessary if Eskom did not have to meet all the racial requirements involved in procurement.

Eskom has no plans to retrench any staff members

Eskom media relation:

Eskom has noted an article produced by trade union Solidarity alleging that Eskom intends to retrench 500 employees, whom it alleges are *white maintenance workers” as part of the latest Employment Equity Plan for 2023 – 2025.

Eskom wishes to reassure the public that there are neither plans nor decision to retrench any employees, whatever their gender or race.

Retrenchments in South Africa are regulated by Section 189 (3) of the Labour Relations Act of 1995, with strict requirements appropriate consultations with all the relevant stakeholders, including the recognised trade unions. These consultations must clearly spell out the reasons and conditions under which retrenchments can be allowed. Discrimination based on race or gender do not qualify as a criterion for retrenchment.

The document referred to in the article is part of internal consultations on employment equity with trade unions, which amongst others seek to verify information for correctness, solicit inputs on targets as well as the required affirmative action measures. As per consultation process, all parties are afforded an opportunity to engage, clarify. suggest alternatives before final decisions are taken.

It is rather unfortunate, opportunistic, and unprofessional for Solidarity, or any party to the confidential internal consultations, to opt to cause unnecessary panic and fear, creating sensation among our staff and in the media before allowing the internal processes to make the appropriate decision.

Eskom’s transformation agenda and employment practices are guided by our values, operational requirements, and the country’s labour laws rather than race. We are committed to achieving diversity, equity and inclusion in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Eskom acknowledges the concerns of all South Africans regarding the current energy crisis.

We have put in place measures to bolster the critical skills required to improve plant performance. Amongst other, as Eskom has regularly communicated, these include recruiting retired former employees and other specialist skills that have the potential to help resolve the energy crisis. These are South Africans of all hues and gender.

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