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Eskom asks workers to quit

Eskom is battling fuel shortages, financial constraints and rolling blackouts.

FILE: Eskom says it’s now offering staff voluntary severance packages. Picture: EPA.

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom says it's not considering forced retrenchments at this stage but due to its financial position, it's now offering staff voluntary severance packages.

The parastatal says the applications, due in February, will be considered on a case-by-case basis but operational requirements will be considered to ensure core skills are not lost.

Eskom is battling fuel shortages, financial constraints and rolling blackouts and just yesterday warned that load shedding could continue well into March.

The power utility released its financial report yesterday showing it made a profit of R9.3 billion in the first six months of the financial year, this is down by 24 percent compared to the same period in 2013.

The utility's Andrew Etzinger says they've realised they need to reduce costs.

"We've indicated to our staff that under certain conditions we're considering voluntary separation that will be incentivised."

The power producer will analyse the situation again at the end of February.

Ratings agencies Standard & Poor, Fitch and Moody's recently downgraded Eskom and chief financial director Tsholofelo Molefe said that "any further downgrade would seriously impede Eskom's ability to raise external funding".

Meanwhile, two employees have been arrested for allegedly trying to defraud Eskom of billions of rands after interfering with its payroll system.

The pair was apprehended along with an accomplice during a sting operation at the weekend following two month investigation.

Alarm bells were raised by Eskom when they picked up fraudulent activity within their information technology department.

PRIVATISATION DEBATE CONTINUES

The debate over whether Eskom should be privatised continues with opposition parties saying it's necessary to keep the lights on but the ruling party standing firmly opposed to such a move.

South Africans have been warned that until new plants come on line the country's power supply will remain unstable.

Professor Anton Eberhard said Eskom can't solve the power crisis on its own.

"We have to fix Eskom on the one hand but we also need to widen and open the space for private investment in new power stations."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions's Patrick Craven said if Eskom is privatised, companies will only seek to make money.

"Electricity has to be seen as a basic public service not something which is there for people to make a quick profit."

'ESKOM IN MOST CHALLENGING POSITION IN MEMORY'

Eskom has urged South Africans to work with it as it battles financial constraints, fuel shortages and operational problems.

The power grid says with warnings of more rolling blackouts, the utility is now in its most challenging position in living memory.

Eskom instituted rolling blackouts for the third time this year at the weekend as fuel reserves ran out, forcing it to call on industrial customers to cut their consumption by 10 percent.

The utility says the power grid will remain tight through the rest of summer, warning South Africans may have to deal with rolling blackouts until March next year.