Beaches shut as strikers fired

2012-11-12 00:00

MOST of the lifeguards employed on South Coast beaches have been fired for embarking on an illegal strike and for absconding from their jobs.

The guards’ actions have led to most beaches along the coast being closed. The few that are open have “restricted bathing”.

The owner of Tower 13, Leon Garbade, who employs 48 lifeguards to man 13 beaches from Hibberdene to Port Edward, was true to his word when he fired the 35 striking lifeguards after they had failed to heed the warning that they would be jobless unless they returned to work by 5 pm on Saturday.

“They are gone — dismissed — as far as I am concerned. I am having an urgent meeting with Hibiscus Coast Municipality tomorrow to see where to go forward from here,” Garbade told The Witness yesterday afternoon.

His contingency plans to bring an additional 14 qualified lifeguards from Port St Johns on Saturday to enable all the beaches to stay open also failed because, he alleged, the striking guards were intimidating them.

“Not only did the strikers make it almost impossible for those who did want to work, but they went after the guys from Port St Johns and intimated them so badly that they are too scared to work as well,” said Garbade.

He has a copy of an SMS from one of the strikers threatening the life of a lifeguard who wanted to work.

Garbade will also be going to the police tomorrow to seek protection for the lifeguards who want to work, and to report charges of intimidation.

Margate and Ramsgate main beaches remain open. There is restricted bathing on Southport, Umzumbe and Hibberdene.

One of the striking lifeguards who spoke to The Witness yesterday was unaware that he had been fired.

“I have not heard about this,” said the guard who identified himself only as Vusi. “Some of those of us who are striking have been working for this company for as many as eight years.

“We are not happy with our salaries of R3 200. When Tower 13’s contract was renewed for another three years in August we were promised more money and benefits and it has not happened.

“We want to work with the municipality again,” said Vusi.

Asked about the intimidation that Garbade alleged, Vusi said: “We have done nothing, nothing like this. Never.”

The striking lifeguards will be going to the Hibiscus Coast Municipality at 8 am today and will demand to see the municipal manager, S’bu Mkhize for answers.

A beach goer on St Michaels beach, Alison Kershaw (27), said yesterday: “What is this country coming to with all the strikes?

“Now we can’t even enjoy a swim on the first weekend we have had sun for weeks! I think it is very suspicious that this strike is just before the holiday season when lifeguards know they have leverage.”

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