Solidarity takes Eskom to court over racial plan

Trade union Solidarity disclosed court documents in which the union calls on the Labour Court to, inter alia, declare the national power utility’s current affirmative action plan invalid. The union believes that this plan will further deplete Eskom’s skills corps and exacerbate the current power crisis which will have a negative effect on all the people in South Africa.

Solidarity’s court application is based on procedural as well as substantive objections. In its court application, the union argues that Eskom had failed to engage in sufficient consultations with the parties concerned regarding its new affirmative action plan before the plan was finalised. In addition, the numerical targets contained in Eskom’s affirmative action plan are only based on the national racial demographics; therefore, it does not take the racial distribution of potentially relevant qualifications into account at all.

“Qualifications are not distributed equally among the different population groups. It is therefore unreasonable for Eskom to expect that job levels requiring specific qualifications should reflect the racial distribution of the population,” said Solidarity Deputy Secretary Johan Kruger.

Kruger explained that over the next year, Eskom wanted to get rid of about 1 967 professionally qualified and skilled employees as part of its plans. In addition, the power utility has already announced plans in terms of which the national racial demographics should be reflected at all levels in the company by 31 March 2020. This means that Eskom wants to get rid of even more people with valuable skills.

“Eskom’s employees possess specialised knowledge and experience that cannot be easily replaced. Eskom is therefore sacrificing essential skills in order to achieve its ideology of national racial representativeness. It is a lose-lose situation that will have a negative effect on all the people in South Africa. With our court action, we are attempting to put a stop to this destructive practice,” said Kruger.

Dirk Groenewald, head of Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practices, said the union also added the Department of Labour as a party to the court case as it supports these irrational targets. “If we succeed with the court case, it will forever change the way in which employers engage in consultations on their affirmative action plans as well as the factors that they have to take into account. Secondly, it will prevent the Department of Labour from measuring employers’ compliance with the Employment Equity Act merely on the basis of the national racial demographics,” said Groenewald.

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