Acting Eskom CEO Brian Molefe says that he is unwilling to cut the power utility’s R1.5 billion staff catering bill, despite its financial crisis.
It follows a Sunday Times report which revealed that Eskom subsidises the meals of 17,000 employees – 37% of its workforce – while contractors building the Medupi and Kusile power stations receive hot meals thanks to a R1.5 billion catering contract.
The food bill is a costly addition to Eskom’s list of expenses, which includes the delayed and over-budget coal-fired power stations it is building, and the R1-billion a month diesel bill for generators.
Food subsidies by the company range from between 50% to 80% of a meal’s cost, and are a “long-standing tradition” at Eskom.
“It’s a fiscal matter. The most important asset that we have in the company is actually our employees. They are even more important than the generators, the coal guzzling generators,” Eskom’s chief executive told Talk Radio 702’s Udo Carelse.
“I am reluctant to do anything about it (change the catering contract). If you look at some of the best companies to work for in the world, like Google for example, Google provides gourmet meals.”
“We are not talking about gourmet meals here…I know that Eskom is not in the league of Google, but I think it is something we should aspire to.”
Molefe said that the Sunday Times should have focused on the fact that over the past 12 days, Eskom has reduced load shedding to almost nil. He called the article ‘gutter journalism’.
He said that he was not interested in cutting costs at Eskom when the company made a large profit in 2014.
“I am reluctant to start tampering with employee benefits, because as it is, we already have employees that are under siege, that are demoralized because of South Africa’s attitude towards Eskom as a result of the unfortunate load shedding.”
“We are not going to get anywhere by cutting staff benefits.”
In November 2014, Eskom reported a profit drop to R9.3 billion for the six months ended September 2014, down 24% from R12.24 billion before.
The group increased revenue to R81.9 billion, from R77.7 billion in 2013.