'We sacrifice so much' – Cape Town firefighters picket for fair working conditions

2018-09-26 17:56


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Firefighters at 30 stations across Cape Town held a lunchtime picket on Wednesday over their working conditions, including the lack of danger pay, promotion obstacles and the decreasing rate of pay for 24-hour shifts.

Off-duty firefighters were seen holding signs at the Roeland Street station in central Cape Town, while those who were on duty did not participate but stood in a line outside in their uniform.

They jumped into a fire truck and sped off when an emergency call came through during the picket.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, firefighters from across the peninsula told News24 they were aggrieved that they worked around 240 hours a month but were only paid for 160 hours.

They worked 24-hour shifts, time which a portion of was on standby at the station. This time was apparently paid back with a standby allowance of 22.8% of the hourly rate.

Firefighters said they should be paid for the full hour because they were still at work.

City 'is showing us the finger'

"We are working outside of the basic conditions of employment. Our fire agreement has lapsed.

"We are working for free even though we are at the station and away from our families and homes," said a firefighter based on the Cape Flats and who has been working for the City for more than a decade.

Another, who has been a firefighter for 20 years, most recently on the Atlantic seaboard, said he assisted with medical duties while on standby and hardly ever took sick leave.

"Sorry for the language but I am gatvol. I am a senior firefighter and all the City is doing is showing us the finger."

Staff wanted danger pay because of the inherent dangers of the job.


"A lot of members of the public don't know we don't receive a danger allowance and also don't realise the number of hours we are working. We work a 09:00 to 09:00 shift and sometimes leave an incident two days later," one of the firefighters said.

Missed birthdays

A firefighter and father of three based in Khayelitsha said he had been threatened with guns and knives in his more than 20 years of service.

He said he loved his job but wanted to make citizens aware of how they were being "exploited".

"They don't pay us Sunday time or public holiday time. We sacrifice so much. If I must tell you over the years how many birthdays I have missed, school concerts, because of the way that we work," he said with a sigh.

"We just want our management to care about us."


There was also unhappiness about the monthly meal allowance of R170, and policies on acting allowances and promotions.

One firefighter alleged: "When you apply for a job at the City's fire and rescue, they give you training and skills and then a certificate, but when it comes to advancement, they don't accept their own certificate."

City in discussions with unions

Another echoed the same sentiments, saying that it took time and money to be certified by the Southern African Emergency Services Institute.

Staff wanted to be paid acting allowances if they were asked to stand in for senior officers who were sick, on leave or in training.

All the firefighters that News24 spoke to emphasised that they were not asking for increases. They just wanted to be paid fairly for all the work they did.

When asked to comment on the grievances, the City's safety and security director Richard Bosman said he was aware of the picket.

"We are currently engaging with personnel through their trade unions on the matter in order to reach an amicable resolution," he said.

"The City is committed to finding a solution in the interest of rendering an effective service to our communities."


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