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Trade union Solidarity has called on Eskom to invest in top skills, even if it is only for the interim, to ease Eskom out of its current crisis. In a bid to assist in this regard, Solidarity has set up an application page on its website which aims to create a “skills database”.

This move can be seen as a response to reports that Eskom wants to drastically cut the number of skilled white engineers and managers to ensure that it meets its affirmative action targets. The embattled utility reportedly wants to reduce its qualified white workforce by 1 308 over the next year.

Eskom adds skills crisis to its woes

The skilled white employees which are targeted include engineers, tradespeople, academically qualified staff, and middle management.

While Eskom is under pressure from the Department of Labour to reduce the number of white employees to meet its BEE targets, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has stated that government is trying to track down and recruit former Eskom staff who are working in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. He recently told the media that good people have been forced out of Eskom because of a “toxic and uncertain” environment.

Partly as a result of the skills shortage at the utility, and partly to ensure independence, government has brought in external engineers to investigate what caused seven generating units to fail, leading to the worst load shedding in almost five years. However, the Infrastructure Research Development Centre (IRDC) has issued a statement strongly opposing this move.

IRDC Executive Director Bongani Mankewu said financing decisions must be taken to curb the current dire situation at Eskom, and that many models could be evaluated in Eskom’s restructure, including the pecking order model which has internal financing, debt, and equity as financing options. The model postulates that the cost of financing increases with asymmetric information, which occurs when one party to a transaction has more or superior information to another.

“Lack of this information leads to a premium price of idiosyncratic risk. Now if you bring these pieces together with due consideration of the country's well-being, ownership of audited information at Eskom is one thing that you cannot afford to let (into) the hands of others. Foreign engineers will not assist in this regard, this will lead to misleading the investment options for the country. Foreign engineers fiddling with our information is not helping Eskom and South Africans,” he said.

Image Credit: Flickr/GovernmentZA: https://www.flickr.com/photos/governmentza/10439446966

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