Eskom says there are no plans to retrench 500 white maintenance workers

 ·27 Jan 2023

Power utility Eskom says it has no plans to retrench any workers, following claims from trade union Solidarity that the group intends to retrench 500 white employees.

The utility said it noted that claims, which allege that Eskom is planning to “get rid of” 500 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 decisions to retrench any employees, whatever their gender or race,” it said.

Solidarity this week said that it had alerted its legal team over apparent plans and threatened to take Eskom to court over the “race-based targets”.

However, Eskom said that the Employment Equity Plan was a part of internal discussions and that no decisions on any of the matters raised by Solidarity had been taken.

It pointed out that retrenchments in South Africa are regulated by Section 189 (3) of the Labour Relations Act of 1995, with strict requirements on 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 does not qualify as a criterion for retrenchment,” it said.

Eskom said the document referred to by Solidarity is part of internal consultations on employment equity with trade unions, which amongst others, seek to verify the information for correctness and solicit inputs on targets as well as the required affirmative action measures.

“As per the consultation process, all parties are afforded an opportunity to engage, clarify, and suggest alternatives before final decisions are taken.”

Eskom said that it is “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 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,” it said.

“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 others, 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,” it said.

Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter this week told the Standing Committee on Public Accounts that the recruitment drive launched in late 2022 to draw critical technical and engineering skills to the utility was a great success and that the company received thousands of CVs.

He said the group was currently in the process of going through the CVs to find the best people to fill critical skills gaps.

Read: Eskom load shedding changes for the weekend – here’s the new schedule

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