Eskom executive bonuses vs in work poverty – who is right?

Recent reports of Eskom executives awarding themselves R6 million bonus per person from a pool of R1.7bn has left a sour taste in the mouths of The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). However, according to Dr Mark Bussin, exco member of the South African Reward Association (SARA), there are always two sides to a story.

The trade unions are facing members on a daily basis regarding how tough it is to come out on one’s salary. “I think it is the next big wave to hit us – in work poverty (IWP). It affects more than half our workforce. People are struggling to come out on their salaries and they don’t understand what executives do to earn their millions. It causes resentment and anger amongst workers and creates a platform for radical elements, radical political parties and radical politicians,” says Dr Bussin.

On the other hand, executives are under continual scrutiny, pressure, risk and forever increasing fiduciary responsibility. It is governance and onerous fiduciary duties that drives executive pay up and up. In Eskom’s case, they do run their business as a business should be run. However, with political interference setting unrealistic political goals and targets, it can put Eskom into the red. This is not entirely the Executive’s fault. Their original budget showed a profit, but the politicians, for example, instructed the electrification of several voter areas and they made a loss – not exactly their fault.

“However, as right as the bonuses seem to the Eskom executives, there is a new word that I have coined called – the “optics” of remuneration. With rotating executives, blackouts, Medupi and general negative press – the optics don’t seem right to earn millions in bonus. This calls for wisdom and sensitivity on the part of Eskom executives. Accepting the millions is contentious and should be declined. Regardless of how lawful or technically correct the bonus calculation is. The optics aren’t right.”