Firefighters want their overtime

2011-07-12 00:00

ABOUT 129 employees attached to the fire and rescue unit of the Msunduzi Municipality are demanding that they be paid more than R1 million in overtime they worked beforea provincial team intervened to save the municipality from collapse last year.

Nineteen out of 25 firefighters were booked off sick yesterday in what is believed to be a move by the firefighters to express their unhappiness over the non-payment of the overtime they have worked since July last year.

Firefighters who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said some of them have chosen to be booked off sick because they cannot embark on a strike since they are classed as an emergency service.

“We refuse to go to work and if houses burn we will not respond until the municipality pays up what is owed to us,” said one firefighter.

“Our morale is very low because we have not been paid what we worked hard for,” said another.

The fire and rescue personnel said that for a decade there has been an annual agreement about the payment of Sunday shifts worked that is signed by the Department of Labour, Msunduzi management, fire department staff, unions in the council, the SA Municipal Workers’ Union and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union.

When the intervention started under administrator Johann Mettler last year the task team and management attempted to deviate from the agreement and amend the existing agreement in line with the financial constraints of the municipality, said the sources. They claim the attempt was made to change the terms without back-paying the fire department personnel for overtime as per the agreement signed in April 2010, which lapsed in March this year.

According to a report written by the human resource department to the administrator, Sibusiso Sithole, and dated April 7, 2011, the fire and rescue service has since 1999 been working a shift system in accordance with a collective agreement approved by the minister of Labour.

A condition of this agreement is that staff members who work on a Sunday will be paid double their hourly rate.

In the report it is stated that R1 151 012,10 is supposed to be back-paid to the personnel for shift allowances between July 2010 and March 2011.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma confirmed that no firefighters reported for duty yesterday, except for supervisors and management. “At least 19 of them booked off sick, thus crippling the service.

“The concerns of the firefighters, which are about the adjustment to payment for Sunday shifts, are understood to be the reason behind the them booking off sick today ,” he said.

Firefighters are classified as an essential service and as “emergency personnel” they cannot go on strike, Zuma said.

He added that operations at the Pietermaritzburg Airport would have to shut down.

“We appeal to the firefighters to report for duty while their concerns are being addressed.”

Zuma said management will discuss the stay-away this morning.

stay-away: Nineteen members book off sick, crippling city’s fire and rescue service.

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