Bay­world hit by week­end clo­sure

Dras­tic move fol­lows years of per­son­nel short­ages and bat­tles over shift al­lowance

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Devon Koen koend@ti­soblack­

AN on­go­ing wage dis­pute and chronic un­der­staffing at Bay­world re­sulted in the com­plex be­ing shut last week­end, with more clo­sures on the cards while Bay­world and of­fi­cials in Bhisho dis­cuss a way for­ward.

Con­sist­ing of the ocea­narium, snake park and mu­seum, Bay­world has 58 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing cu­ra­tors, grounds staff, gen­eral as­sis­tants and ad­min­is­tra­tive staff.

Is­sues in­clud­ing non-pay­ment of shift al­lowances for week­end work have caused em­ploy­ees to close the beach­front at­trac­tion to the pub­lic at week­ends.

Ad­mit­ting that the week­end clo­sure was due to staff short­ages, East­ern Cape Depart­ment of Sports, Recre­ation, Arts and Cul­ture spokesman Andile Nduna said clo­sures had a huge im­pact on the mu­seum’s cash flow.

On av­er­age, Bay­world re­ceived between 50 and 60 vis­i­tors over a week­end, depend­ing on the sea­son.

Of the 58 per­ma­nent staff mem­bers at Bay­world, only 10 worked week­end shifts, Nduna said.

“Although we have 58 em­ploy­ees at Bay­world, more po­si­tions are be­ing filled. This tem­po­rary week­end clo­sure has come about due to staff short­ages,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to a Bay­world em­ployee, who asked to re­main anony­mous, a chronic staff short­age and the depart­ment no longer pay­ing shift al­lowances led se­nior staff mem­bers to shut the fa­cil­ity over week­ends.

“The staff in­sti­tuted the clo­sure [over week­ends] due to is­sues of un­der-staffing and non­pay­ment of shift al­lowances.

“The depart­ment [of sports, recre­ation, arts and cul­ture] has been aware of th­ese is­sues for the past five years.

“Gen­eral as­sis­tant work­ers and grounds staff were pre­vi­ously paid a shift al­lowance and se­nior staff would re­ceive time off for work­ing ex­tra hours, but then the depart­ment stopped pay­ment and se­nior staff had to fill in at week­ends,” he said.

Se­nior staff were con­tracted to work one week­end a month but were now forced to work two week­ends with no ex­tra re­mu­ner­a­tion or gen­eral as­sis­tance, he said.

He said staff had had enough of empty prom­ises from the depart­ment and were un­der huge pres­sure to per­form over and above what they were con­tracted to do.

“Ser­vice de­liv­ery [at Bay­world] is se­verely im­pacted in the sense of what we can of­fer through ex­hibits and in­stal­la­tions.”

Se­nior staff mem­bers were still feed­ing and at­tend­ing to the an­i­mals over week­ends, he said.

“We are, at the mo­ment, in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the depart­ment and have given it var­i­ous op­tions to con­sider.”

Ap­proached for com­ment on the im­pact the clo­sure would have on tourism, Nel­son Man­dela Bay Tourism spokes­woman Reuann Smith said it was not their man­date to com­ment on the is­sue, and re­ferred all queries to the depart­ment.

Tour guide Tony Nev­er­ling said he found the week­end clo­sures tragic.

“We need th­ese at­trac­tions to bring peo­ple in, and the off­spin of that would bring in more rev­enue for them [Bay­world] which in turn could help with the fi­nan­cial con­cerns of the fa­cil­ity,” he said.

Ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Su­san van Rens­burg said the week­end clo­sure of Bay­world was a ma­jor con­cern.

“Some­body some­where needs to make a plan. Week­ends are the only time peo­ple can re­ally go there but now it is closed.

“Vis­it­ing a mu­seum is a fam­ily event [dur­ing which] mu­se­ums of­fer cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion.”

Nduna said dis­cus­sions with dis­grun­tled Bay­world staff mem­bers were un­der way to fa­cil­i­tate its reopening.

Four va­can­cies had al­ready been filled, with one pend­ing and a fur­ther eight still to be ad­ver­tised, he said.

The staff mem­ber said that un­til more staff had been em­ployed and shift al­lowances re­in­stated, the com­plex would re­main closed at week­ends.


FAS­CI­NAT­ING CREA­TURE: Annabelle Heynes, 8, takes a closer look at a pen­guin through the view­ing glass. ABOVE: The en­trance to Bay­world

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