Eskom is set to axe as many as 3,389 skilled white employees, including 1,081 white engineers and managers, as it ramps up its affirmative action policy.
This is according to Solidarity, who said that the power utility aims to reflect the national demography by 31 March 2020.
“According to these targets, there are approximately 3,400, or 44%, white employees too many at Eskom. The job levels that will be hardest hit are those of qualified, experienced specialists and middle management. Trade unions must now be consulted about the new Eskom plans,” said Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann.
“We are completely stunned by the new proposals. Eskom is currently experiencing a crisis and now we, together with other trade unions have to consult with them about more aggressive affirmative action. We would rather talk to them about how to deal with the current crisis.”
Solidarity said that the posts that are being targeted are of critical importance to Eskom as the company struggles to shake off regular load shedding.
“Of the approximate 3,400 whites who have to be shed, around 3,200 are in posts that are on critical technical and managerial levels,” Hermann said.
Eskom will spread its 2020 target over five years according to annual targets per job level, Solidarity said.
Citing Eskom documentation, the trade union said that the provincial demography would also be taken into account when determining targets.
“In Eskom’s case it may, however, aggravate the technical skills loss. The majority of Eskom’s power stations are located in Mpumalanga. In this province, black Africans constitute 90.8% of the total population,” it said.
Assuming 1,000 persons are working at a power station, it would mean that, of them, only 92 may be white, coloured or Indian South Africans.
In Limpopo, where new power stations such as Medupi are located, 95.4% of the total population are black Africans. In this case, only 46 employees per 1,000 employees may be coloured, white and Indian employees
“Eskom’s top priority must be to keep the lights on,” the DA said in a statement on Sunday (9 March).
“Redress will not be achieved through racial victimisation that will, inevitably, hurt the poor and mostly-black South Africans the most. With load shedding now a daily occurrence – with the disadvantaged hardest hit – the DA calls on Eskom to make use of its engineers’ skills to find a solution to the troubles facing Eskom instead of worsening the problem.”
The political party noted that South Africa faces a severe skills shortage in the engineering sector. Minister of Science Technology, Naledi Pandor, recently stated that despite the high number of students enrolling in engineering each year, South Africa only produces approximately 1,500 engineering graduates yearly – of which only about half go on to practice engineering
The Minister added that the shortage of engineering professionals means that we don’t have enough practitioners available for ongoing work. The government in its latest bid at populist rhetoric ignores this fact.