Lifeguard jobs on the line

2012-11-10 00:00

AT least 35 of the 48 lifeguards manning nine South Coast beaches will be fired if they do not return to work by 5 pm today, for embarking on a “wild-cat” strike.

This was confirmed yesterday by Leon Garbade, owner of Tower 13 Lifeguard Services, the company contracted by Hibiscus Coast Municipality (HCM).

Lifeguards went on strike late on Thursday over a range of issues, including allegations of physical abuse by bosses. Garbade strongly denied the allegations.

Tower 13 guards beaches from Hibberdene to Port Edward.

Garbade said he had already made other plans. Last night, 14 fully trained lifeguards were scheduled to come up from Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape.

Garbade said that when the strike started, not one of the striking employees had approached him with their grievances. “No dispute process has been followed, no grievance has been received, nobody has come to management and I haven’t even had a response to an email or SMS.

“This is a total wildcat strike, which I will not tolerate. I have tried my best to talk to them,” he said.

In agreement was HCM beach manager Anton Botha. “This strike is totally illegal. Nobody has approached me. As far as I understand it, the issue is between the employer, being Tower 13, and the employees being the lifeguards.”

Botha added that just having lost Margate as a Blue Flag beach, the last thing the South Coast needed was negative publicity leading up to holiday season.

Angry lifesavers gathered in front of the municipality on Thursday to meet municipal manager S’bu Mkhize.

“He [Mkhize] told us to see him on Wednesday next week. We are paid R3 200, which is peanuts,” said one of the lifeguards who refused to be named.

Others gave Weekend Witness reasons why they wanted HCM to end their tender with Tower 13.

They alleged that they were physically abused if they arrived at work smelling of alcohol; that the management of Tower 13 was “too white”; and that one worker “was slapped for reporting to work with a hangover”.

They also claimed some lifeguards had no lifesaving certificates and that Botha drove Tower 13 cars while his son was allegedly involved in the company.

In response, Garbade said: “Utter rubbish is what I would say to the whole lot. There are salary grades and scales and contracts which guards sign, so I am not aware of unhappiness over money. Yes, if lifeguards come to work smelling of alcohol they will go to counselling sessions, but certainly nobody has ever been slapped.”

Garbade agreed his management team was white, but said his other lifeguard companies elsewhere in South Africa were not. He also invited anyone to check the certificates of his staff and denied Botha was in any way involved in his business.

Mkhize was asked for a comment, which was not received at the time of going to press.

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