Chasedene residents complain over leisurely work habits of municipal team

2009-01-01 00:00

With over three hours spent on breaks and just two-and-a-half hours actually working, Msunduzi Municipal workers are the envy of residents in Connor Road, Chasedene, who want to know how they too can get jobs with the municipality.

Residents observed with bemusement the work (or rather non-work) habits of the stormwater drain cleaners who arrived in their street at 8 am and had breakfast until 10 am.

The team then set to work cleaning the stormwater drains until 12.30 pm. Then it was time for a lunch break and an afternoon nap, which ended around 2.30 pm when transport came to pick them up.

The worker who was the envy of all arrived and left in a spotlessly clean pair of overalls. She was not the supervisor, but spent the entire morning sitting and guarding the equipment, which consisted of a few spades and other inexpensive tools.

However, bemusement turned to irritation in the afternoon when it was discovered that when the workers knocked off for the day, they had not covered the manholes and had left all the soil they had dug out lying scattered around.

A resident said this was highly irresponsible because it is school holidays and children play in the vicinity.

“If a child fell in and was injured or washed away — especially after the recent heavy rains — it could cost the municipality and ultimately the ratepayer up to R1 million and more in medical and legal fees,” he said.

Others in the street noted that if it had rained, the clean-up would have been futile as all the debris would have washed straight back into the drains.

A Witness photographer visited the site on Tuesday morning, and after seeing him take pictures, the workers displayed more enthusiasm over their task, but this soon faded when he left, residents claimed.

The acting deputy municipal manager for infrastructure services, Sithembiso Mbimbi, said the incident was reported to the drainage superintendent and an investigation is under way. He said any negligence on the part of the workers will be dealt with through the council’s disciplinary procedures.

Mbimbi said the workers are full-time municipal staff in the storm-water drainage section. They are part of the team which cleans drainage catch-pits.

“To clarify their working hours, a truck ferrying them to the worksite leaves the depot at 7.30 am. It usually arrives on site in 20 to 30 minutes.

“The workers are then immediately expected to commence with the task at hand and only break for a 15-minute tea time [from 9 to 9.15 am] and for a 45-minute lunch [between 12 and 12.45 pm].

“The employees normally eat during the first 20 minutes of their lunch break and rest for the balance of their lunch time.

“Immediately after that, they resume work and finish off around 3 pm. The truck then arrives to take them back to the depot, to clean up and knock off.

“In this case, the truck had to be early to fetch this team because their dedicated truck was in the workshop. This same truck had to fetch another team from a different site location later on.”

Mbimbi said that before staff leave the worksite, they are expected to clean up the dirt removed from the stormwater drain and make sure that the covers are replaced and that the site is left in a safe condition.

This is a requirement even if the work is not completed and even if the workers return the following day, said Mbimbi.

“All employees in the drainage section are aware of the dangers of manholes that are left open.”

The drainage superintendent has been tasked to monitor the working hours of staff in the field.

Residents are encouraged to report such incidents to the municipality whenever they see them, Mbimbi added.

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