Eskom freezes job cuts to retain vital skills

ESKOM has quietly shelved plans to reduce staff numbers and arrest spiralling costs after a voluntary separation process attracted thousands of applications from people with skills it did not want to lose.

In the first month of the voluntary separation process, announced by former CEO Tshediso Matona in November, Eskom received 4,000 applications, sources said. “These were the kind of skills the company needed to retain,” said one source. Eskom employs just more than 46,000. Jobs growth has averaged 20% a year since 2008 even as electricity produced declined in that period, due to frequent breakdowns of ageing coal-fired generation plants.

“It was decided that the process must be stopped as it would leave Eskom without key people,” the source said.

Twenty employees left in March, including senior and special skills staff in the nuclear division, after their applications were signed off before other applications started flooding in. “Those were approved before we realised how many people wanted to accept the package offer,” said a manager. Many applicants were long-serving employees and paying them out would have been expensive, defeating the purpose of the cost-cutting exercise.

The utility needs to cut costs to find desperately needed cash to invest in operations. This week the National Energy Regulator of SA turned down its application for a further electricity price increase that would have netted the utility R52.8bn more in revenue in the next two years.

Even after a government cash injection of R23bn and a R60bn loan converted to equity, Eskom will still need billions more to pay for diesel, fix infrastructure and complete new power stations.

­– Business Day