Fire Dept row delays Jozi flight

2013-05-30 00:00

CONTINUING action by Pietermaritzburg firemen to be paid allowances apparently resulted in a flight from the city to Johannesburg being delayed this week.

SA Airlink spokesperson Karin Murray said flight SA8730 was delayed by 21 minutes on Monday because of what they were told was a technical fault with a fire tender.

The firemen have stopped work at 2 pm since last Friday, and yesterday those on the roster to work the night shift handed in sick notes, indicating they would not work the shift.

At the centre of their dispute with the Msunduzi Municipality is a collective bargaining agreement signed in July 2011, but only implemented in January this year. In terms of the agreement, many privileges, including night shift and weekend allowances, were withdrawn.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma said contingency measures were in place to ensure a fire-fighting service was available, while negotiations between the municipality and unions continued.

Zuma confirmed that a flight was delayed by 15 minutes due to a technical failure with a fire engine at Pietermaritzburg Airport.

He said Indiza Airport management, which runs the airport, was tasked with arranging an alternative fire-fighting service for the facility, while private company Rural Metro was on stand-by to put out blazes elsewhere in the city.

A fireman told The Witness yesterday that all fire-fighters walked off at 2 pm yesterday. “They were told that the municipality was getting in Rural Metro to man the station and do their work,” he said.

The fire-fighters said Rural Metro staff did not know how to drive the fire engines or operate the fire-fighting equipment at the station. They blamed the delayed flight on inexperienced staff manning the fire-fighting equipment at the airport.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said the unions and Msunduzi management should approach the SA Local Government Association to resolve the matter, which concerned the interpretation of the agreement reached in 2011.

The NFP and IFP said the dispute should be addressed urgently for public safety to be assured.

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