Eskom expects to reduce staff by 15 percent in five years


JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s state-run power utility Eskom expects to have 7,000 less staff in five years from now, a senior manager at the utility that is struggling to emerge from a financial crisis said on Thursday.

Cash-strapped Eskom is critical to Africa’s most industrialised economy as it supplies more than 90 percent of its power and is one of its most indebted state firms.

Eskom has powerful labour unions, some allied with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and others more militant, that have said they will resist attempts to cut the workforce and fight moves to privatise the company.

“Eskom intends to reduce headcount from 48,678 to 41,613 by 2023 across all levels through normal attrition,” Marion Hughes, a senior manager at the utility said in a strategy presentation.

Eskom has 270 billion rands ($18 billion) of state-guaranteed debt and is often cited as a threat to South Africa’s credit ratings. Its total debt is around 390 billion rand.

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a new board at Eskom early this year in one of his first interventions since becoming the leader of the ANC. He later secured the backing of senior ANC figures for a radical overhaul of Eskom.

Eskom said last month it was considering selling non-core assets and job cuts after swinging to a full-year loss.

The utility was forced to cave into union demands for higher pay after protesting workers forced some generating units to be switched off, leading to power outages in July and earlier this month.

($1 = 14.6363 rand)