Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza says the utility is up to 33% overstaffed at all levels and may need to be "rightsized" in time.
“We don't know whether we will downsize but we are determined to rightsize. We will do that within the confines of the Labour Relations Act. We can’t tell people here how we can embark on this. It requires we consult with our workers,” Mabuza told members of Parliament’s Portfolio Committees on Energy and Public Enterprises.
He was responding to comments from Members of Parliament that Eskom was "bloated" and needed to cut staff.
Mabuza said Eskom’s funders had already ruled out any further bailouts and the utility needed to slash costs.
He said the World Bank had benchmarked Eskom with other comparable utilities around the world and found that it was 50% overstaffed. “We found that the number is closer to 33%”.
He said Eskom would follow due process.
“It will take time. It will take pain. It is not something we will do with a sense of excitement. It’s not going to be good for us to see colleagues that have worked with us and tell them to look for other jobs.”
But he said it was vital in envisioning an Eskom of the future.
“We undertake to look at what type of Eskom we need, and what type of skills sets Eskom needs. We are committing ourselves to having the right people at the right place doing the right things.”
Mabuza also said striking workers would be disciplined if they have been found to have broken the law during the recent protest action, which led to load-shedding.
Union leaders have demanded an undertaking that Eskom will not discipline anyone who took part in illegal strikes.
“There is no way we can agree not to discipline people who have broken the law. When it comes to sabotage, treason, attacking the industrial equipment . . . that has to be dealt with with the full might of the law,” he told Members of Parliament.
He said Eskom would embark on a fair process and would recognise the rights of unions to represent their workers, but ruled out a blanket agreement.
“We cannot sit here and pre-agree that we will go into this sham, find you guilty but then not discipline you if you are guilty,” Mabuza said this would be very unfair to people who were doing their job within the law.
Eskom group executive of generation and sustainability Thava Govender told of sabotage at various power stations. He singled out a particularly dangerous incident, in which someone opened a hydrogen vent valve, which cools the generator.
“That machine could have exploded. Luckily one of our managers picked it up. We managed to nurse that unit back up to full load. Subsequently, it did trip and there is damage on that machine as a result of sabotage.” Police are investigating the case.
Eskom employees have been offered a 7.5% increase this year and a 7% increase for the next two years, plus a housing allowance and a R10 000 one-off bonus.
While the Eskom chairperson said an above-inflation increase was not what Eskom had hoped for, he was pleased they had signed a three-year agreement with the unions.
“We think it is a great achievement . . . a great milestone. We also acknowledge that to get three-year stability, there is a premium you pay.”