Solidarity is assisting an Eskom engineer in an internal grievance procedure that has been denied promotion in two different posts over the past five months for being white and male.
His appointment to a third position for which he applied, and which was initially awarded to him, is now also in the balance because his current management objected to it, allegedly because he is white.
This despite the fact that Eskom’s affirmative action plan was suspended in February due to acute skills shortages.
Thobile Lamati, director-general of labour, told Rapport in February that Eskom’s affirmative action plan was suspended following representations by Phakamani Hadebe, then chief executive.
The affirmative action plan at that stage stipulated that by March 2020, Eskom had to reduce the number of white engineers by 336 to 980 men and 298 women to make these post levels representative of the national demographics.
Hadebe’s request for deferral to meet these requirements was granted by the Department of Labour, Lamati told Rapport in February.
However, it was not announced that affirmative action was temporarily suspended, says Deon Reyneke, deputy chief executive of the trade union Solidarity.
“Documents related to the complaints (from our client) clearly show that Eskom’s managers and even human resources staff are blissfully unaware that the company’s affirmative action plan has been suspended due to severe skills shortages, especially at power stations.”
Elsie Pule, Eskom’s human resources group head, again confirmed to Rapport on Friday that the affirmative action plan had been suspended, but also acknowledged that very few people in Eskom had ever been informed about it.
“Let the facts speak: fair employment is required by law. We are not trying to exclude white people, but work according to the demographics of the country and the economically active population, ”she said.
“We are working on a project to fill 3,636 positions with internal appointments. In this project, fair employment requirements were abandoned. However, there is a moratorium on external appointments, ”says Pule.
The first job the white engineer applied for was that of a senior risk and reliability engineer at the major Eskom power stations where he works.
He is one of only two engineers there with a so-called state competency certificate. The legislation on machinery requires that anyone who inspects dangerous high-pressure equipment and certifies as safe must have such a certificate.
When the white engineer inquired about it, two of his supervisors told him on various occasions that there was a ban on the promotion of white men in engineering positions. “He now has to sign the risk-based inspections of the equipment on behalf of the other engineer,” Reyneke says.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said in Parliament earlier this year that there was a serious shortage of critical skills at Eskom, especially to engineers, technologists, and artisans.