Eskom starts vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion ac­tion

• Strug­gling state-owned power util­ity sets aside R400m for non­core staff pack­ages, and tar­gets se­nior em­ploy­ees but ex­cludes its non­man­age­rial staff

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Genevieve Quin­tal Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor quin­[email protected]­nesslive.co.za

Cash-strapped power util­ity Eskom has put aside R400m for pack­ages for non­core staff who want to leave the com­pany vol­un­tar­ily so as to cut costs. On Thurs­day, Eskom con­firmed that it had started the vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion pack­age process targeting se­nior em­ploy­ees, but ex­clud­ing non­man­age­rial staff, which would cut over­head costs. It said the money spent on the process will be re­couped within a year.

Cash-strapped power util­ity Eskom has put aside R400m for pack­ages for non­core staff who want to leave the com­pany vol­un­tar­ily so as to cut costs.

On Thurs­day, Eskom con­firmed that it has started the vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion pack­age (VSP) process targeting se­nior em­ploy­ees, but ex­clud­ing non­man­age­rial staff, which will cut over­head costs. It said the money spent on the process will be re­couped through sav­ings within a year.

“The pur­pose of the sep­a­ra­tion process is to ra­tion­alise man­age­ment lay­ers, which will lead to an ef­fi­ciently run com­pany,” the power util­ity said in a state­ment.

“Eskom will en­sure that no crit­i­cal skills will be lost as a re­sult of the pro­gramme, and man­age­ment will take ev­ery pre­cau­tion to en­sure that the VSP process caters to the best in­ter­ests of Eskom.”

Eskom faces a se­vere fi­nan­cial and op­er­a­tional cri­sis, with cash from op­er­a­tions fall­ing short of monthly debt-ser­vic­ing costs. De­spite a R128bn gov­ern­ment bailout over the next three years, the sit­u­a­tion is so dire that the gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing a pro­posal by union fed­er­a­tion Cosatu to use worker pen­sion funds to pay down part of the util­ity’s daunt­ing R450bn debt.

The power util­ity is said to be over­staffed with as many as 27,500 em­ploy­ees.

A 2016 World Bank study of util­i­ties in Africa, which looked at the staffing data for 36 coun­tries, found that Eskom needs a work­force of 14,244.

In 2007, Eskom employed 32,674 people and sold 218,120GWh of power. The num­ber of em­ploy­ees bal­looned by nearly 50% to 48,628 in the 2018 fi­nan­cial year, while sales de­clined to 212,190GWh.

Ac­cord­ing to a let­ter to ex­ec­u­tives from group ex­ec­u­tive of hu­man re­sources Elsie Pule, a win­dow of vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion pack­ages (VSPs) will open for man­age­rial level em­ploy­ees.

Staff aged from 60 to 62 will be el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply ir­re­spec­tive of be­ing in core, crit­i­cal or non­core po­si­tions.

Pule said the process was vol­un­tary and no em­ployee should be co­erced or re­quested to ap­ply. She said ap­proval of VSP applicatio­ns would be at Eskom’s dis­cre­tion and based on ap­proved guid­ing prin­ci­ples that would be com­mu­ni­cated.

Each divi­sion will be al­lo­cated a cap on funds based on the proportion of el­i­gi­ble em­ploy­ees.

The ap­proved sep­a­ra­tion ben­e­fits will be based on two weeks’ re­mu­ner­a­tion per com­pleted year of ser­vice and a gra­tu­ity pay­ment of R75,000.

The win­dow for applicatio­ns will open in the third week of February, with em­ployee ex­its planned for the end of April — ex­cept for those tak­ing early re­tire­ment.

In 2015, Eskom shelved plans to re­duce staff num­bers and ar­rest spi­ralling costs af­ter a vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion process at the time at­tracted thou­sands of applicatio­ns from people with skills it did not want to lose.

At the time, Business Day re­ported that in the first month of the vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion process Eskom re­ceived 4,000 applicatio­ns.

Twenty em­ploy­ees left the power util­ity in March 2015, in­clud­ing se­nior and spe­cial­skills staff in the nu­clear divi­sion, af­ter their applicatio­ns were signed off be­fore other applicatio­ns started flood­ing in.

Pule said that as part of the lessons learnt from the VSP roll­out in 2015, Eskom is ex­plor­ing a cen­tralised ap­pli­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy plat­form and de­ci­sion­mak­ing process.

ESKOM WILL EN­SURE THAT NO CRIT­I­CAL SKILLS WILL BE LOST AS A RE­SULT OF THE PRO­GRAMME

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