Fire-fighters walk off job

2013-05-25 00:00

FED up with salary cuts, fire-fighters in Pietermaritzburg deserted their posts at 3 pm yesterday and vowed that they would not be working this weekend.

A message circulated to firemen yesterday morning read: “Important notice: All ratepayers, please be advised that there will be No Fire & Emergency Services from today 15H00 until Monday 06H00. Due to salary cuts of fire fighters by Msunduzi Municipality. Please broadcast this important message.”

The fire-fighters threatened to stop working night shifts and weekends in a salary dispute two months ago.

Now that the fire-fighters have acted on their threats, Msunduzi Municipality has called in the Indiza fire service to run operations at Pietermaritzburg Airport. Indiza also undertakes security services at the airport.

A fire-fighter said: “We are not coping and seeing them paving the city, uprooting roads, makes us angry because it means they have the money but are not prepared to pay us for the actual hours worked.”

He said he and his colleagues were taking home R4 500. Another fire-fighter showed the Weekend Witness her salary slip, which reflected net pay of R3 212,67.

“How am I supposed to pay for my car, school fees and buy groceries if I am getting paid peanuts? I should have been paid R7 000 for the 180 hours that I worked,” she said.

She said she was paid for only 166,67 hours, like the fire officers who worked straight shifts from Monday to Friday.

At the centre of the dispute is a collective bargaining agreement, which was signed in July 2011 and only implemented in January, and a resolution that was taken during a meeting on March 28 which stipulates that fire-fighters should be paid for the actual hours worked. Msunduzi Municiplaoty human resources department has failed to honour the resolution, according to the fire-fighters.

A South African Municipal Workers’ Union shop steward, Lucky Zimu, said the union supported the workers for demanding what was due to them.

“Since management had not approached the union to brief us about problems in the fire department, then it means that they approve of fire-fighters working for only eight hours,” said Zimu.

Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said: “The only thing we can say is there are ongoing negotiations … the municipality will ensure that at all times we have a firefighting unit that can respond to challenges and that there are no disruptions to the operations of our airport”.

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