Trade union Solidarity says that it stands by its revelations that Eskom aims to cut its white employees by up to 3,400, despite having shed more than 10,000 white staff since 1994.
This comes after Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe denied the existence of plans to shed enough white employees for the state-owned enterprise to reach its target of reflecting the national racial demographics by 2020.
According to Piet le Roux, head of the Solidarity Research Institute, Eskom’s statements present three possibilities:
- Eskom might have now decided against the employment equity plan it proposed to unions, but the utility should then state so clearly and publicly.
- The possibility exists that Eskom plans to lower the percentage of white employees to the target of 10.8% without sacking white employees simply by employing additional black employees. However, for this to work Eskom would have to increase its total workforce by 28,600, or 68%, from 42,200 to 70,800.
- It is possible that Eskom denies publicly, but secretly still hopes to shed up to 3,400 white employees to reach its national racial demographic target for 2020.
Le Roux said that while Eskom has denied its intention of increasing black employees at the expense of currently employees white staff, “bear in mind that Eskom denies that any of the more than 10,000 white employees who have left the organisation since 1994 were let go for affirmative action purposes”.
Solidarity warned that should Eskom move to substitute white employees for black employees, it might create an environment hostile enough that many of its white – and most skilled and experienced employees – leave of their own accord.
“And this is not even mentioning that Eskom’s current cost-saving strategies involve a cap on workforce numbers. Given Eskom’s history, the only question on the table this time seems to be how, and not if, white employees will be reduced,” Le Roux said.
Le Roux also reiterated comments made by Solidarity chief Executive, Dr Dirk Hermann, that the current electricity crisis in South Africa cannot be understood without reference to affirmative action.
“The problem is not necessarily that those who left the utility were white but that they were people who possessed managerial and technical skills. Not only skills were lost in the process but also institutional memory,” Hermann said.