What it’s like to be white and work at Eskom

A new survey conducted by trade union Solidarity, finds that its members who work at crisis stricken power utility, Eskom, are frustrated with the incompetence of both management and colleagues.

During March 2015, Solidarity undertook a wellness and job perception study among its
members at Eskom.

It sent an electronic questionnaire to 4,807 Solidarity members at Eskom, and a satisfactory feedback rate of approximately 25% was obtained.

The respondents were mostly males (62.5%), with 43% of them in the 51-60 age category. Most respondents (67%) were older than 41 years. Respondents were therefore primarily experienced employees of whom some 70% had been in their present positions for more than six years.

Most respondents (86%) who completed the questionnaire were white. The study consisted of 11% black, Indian and coloured people.

“Members felt aggrieved that people without the proper qualifications, experience or capabilities were appointed in senior positions. This applied to managers and other employees. According to respondents, appointments were often politically and race-based,” solidarity said.

Respondents’ frustration stemmed from the fact that they often had to rectify the botched work of many colleagues who could or would not do the work; in so doing, members had to bear a greater workload, the report found.

“The results of our study point to a workforce that feels powerless and dejected under stifling race targets. As is the case with its equipment, Eskom is not looking after its employees and just as a silo can collapse, so too Eskom’s skills pool can collapse,” Piet le Roux, head of the Solidarity Research Institute said.

The trade union said it remains concerned about an ‘indicated’ revised draft employment equity plan that the state owned company wants to continue to get rid of thousands of skilled white employees.

Le Roux said that Eskom’s “revised” plan involves breaking up a single five-year plan into five separate yearly plans.

“Instead of getting rid of 3,400 skilled white employees during the five years up to 2020, Eskom wants to obtain permission to shed one fifth of the 3,400 white employees -that is 680 white employees  – during the coming year.”

“That Eskom could think this plan is a ‘new’, more acceptable plan than its previous five-year plan, is almost incredible.”

Solidarity has asked deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to reaffirm statements he made last week, that Eskom should give preference to merit over skin colour.

Additional findings within the survey revealed:

  • A total of 81% of the respondents are of the opinion that policies on race representivity impede their career prospects.
  • 15% said racial representation did not hamper their career possibilities, while 4% noted that it aided them in their career development.
  •  71% feel uncertain about their positions.
  •  Half of the respondents said they did not gain recognition for their achievements.
  • 51% expected to remain in Eskom’s employ next year, while 17% did not, and 32% were not sure.
  • Respondents noted that they were often remunerated at a lower rate than other less qualified and less experienced employees, despite respondents regularly having to do more work and accept greater responsibilities.
  • Respondents described the racial discrimination they experienced when disqualified for any promotion or appointment in other positions because they were white.
  • 75% of the respondents said the promotion procedure was unjust, and 74.5% said they had no career development opportunities within Eskom.

“Some employees no longer found any pleasure in working for Eskom. Many have lost their energy and drive.”

“Their morale was low and they were no longer motivated to do their best or to walk the extra mile. Some employees said they lost their pride in working for Eskom,” the report said.

More on Eskom

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Eskom will hire anyone who’s skilled: Ramaphosa

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What it’s like to be white and work at Eskom