Crisis-response crisis

2011-03-30 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality is short of hundreds of staff in the critical areas of traffic, firefighting, disaster management and electricity.

In addition, staff say almost all of the refuse removal trucks are off the road awaiting repairs.

According to workers who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, the council requires 110 more officers and 100 firefighters in order to carry out their duties without tapping into the controversial overtime system.

A traffic officer said there are no traffic wardens to issue parking tickets. He said that a fully staffed department would have 150 traffic officers on the streets, but they have only 50, some of whom are confined to desk jobs by poor health.

“It is frustrating and stressful,” said the officer.

He said that on top of the staff shortage and ageing traffic vehicles, half of the traffic officers’ portable radios do not work. Even those that do have a signal range too small to cover the whole city.

“Traffic officers have to use their cellphones to communicate with the control room,” he said.

Disaster management is even worse off, with only three staff, instead of about 30.

A manager said that although fire and disaster are linked, fire personnel cannot abandon their tasks to respond to emergencies and relieve disaster personnel.

In the electricity division electricians are “stressed and frustrated” as there is a shortage of more than 100 staff, said another manager.

A firefighter suggested that the council should seek young volunteers in order to deal with the staff shortage at the fire department. He said that with the new Edendale Fire Station due to open next month, the overstretched fire services with 120 personnel will be burdened even further in order to staff the new facility.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma confirmed the staff shortages.

“The frustrations of our employees are understandable. It is true that we are short-staffed, and that has a negative impact on service delivery.

“It doesn’t require rocket science to understand that staff increase means budget increase, and within the present circumstances, we cannot employ more staff.

“We are battling with overtime … In cases where we can bring in temps and can afford to do so, we oblige … We can still get business going if we all commit ourselves during these trying times,” said Zuma.

Meanwhile, the problems of trucks at the waste management division persist. The ageing fleet is in disrepair and affecting service delivery.

According to workers, 18 of 21 rubbish trucks are waiting to be repaired.

“We have covered those bases now, and after an important special meeting held today to resolve this matter, we are now going to repair vehicles, and this will impact positively on service delivery.

“ We are satisfied that the process will now be faster, but also efficient,” said Zuma.

 

Traffic: up to 75% of posts are vacant.

Electricity: about 100 electrician posts vacant.

Disaster management: need about 30 staff, only have three.

 

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