Eskom has no plans to retrench staff members

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Eskom has assured the public that there are no plans to retrench any staff members nor has a decision to retrench any employees been taken.

This assertion comes after trade union Solidarity alleged in an article that Eskom intends to retrench 500 employees, whom it alleged are “white maintenance workers,” as part of the latest Employment Equity Plan for 2023 – 2025.

In a statement of Friday, the power utility refuted the claims.

“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 recognized 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,” Eskom said.

Eskom said 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 process 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 said.

Resolving the energy challenge

Meanwhile, Eskom acknowledged 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 the retired former employees and other specialists’ skills that have the potential to help solve the energy crisis. There are South Africans of all hues and gender,” Eskom said.

To respond to the severe impact of load shedding on households, small businesses and the economy as a whole, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a range of measures in July 2022 to improve the performance of existing power stations and add new generation capacity as quickly as possible.

The Energy Action Plan was developed through extensive consultation and endorsed by energy experts as providing the best and fastest path towards energy security.

Intensive work is underway to implement the plan, which aims to, firstly, improve the performance of Eskom power stations, and, secondly, to bring new generating capacity onto the system as quickly as possible.

The Energy Action Plan focuses on five main tasks:

  • Fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply.
  • Enable and accelerate private investment in generation capacity.
  • Accelerate procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage.
  • Unleash businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar.
  • Fundamentally transform the electricity sector to achieve long-term energy security.

Since it was announced in July 2022, there has been important progress in implementing the Energy Action Plan.

While the benefits may not be felt immediately, this work is going to contribute to reducing load shedding in the months ahead and ultimately to end it.

Among the areas where progress has been made:

  • The licensing requirement for embedded generation projects has been removed. Since government first raised the licensing threshold to 100 MW, the pipeline of private sector projects has grown to more than 100 projects with over 9,000 MW of capacity. Government expects the first of these projects to connect to the grid by the end of this year.
  • Agreements have been signed with independent power producers for 26 renewable energy projects, which together will generate around 2,800 MW. Construction on these projects will soon start.
  • An additional 300 MW has been imported through the Southern African Power Pool, and negotiations are underway to secure a potential 1,000 MW from neighbouring countries.
  • Eskom has also launched a programme to purchase up to 1,000 MW of power from companies with existing generation capacity for a period of three years.
  • Government has cut red tape and streamlined regulatory processes, reducing the timeframes for environmental authorisations, registration of new projects and grid connection approvals.
  • Government has established a team of independent experts to work closely with Eskom to diagnose the problems at poorly performing power stations and take action to improve plant performance. Six power stations have been identified for particular focus over the coming months in order to recover additional capacity.