Fire­fight­ers turn up the heat

WAGE DIS­PUTE: Mu­nic­i­pal­ity given dead­line

Weekend Witness - - News - THOBANI NGQULUNGA

FIRE­FIGHT­ERS in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg are spit­ting fire over a salary dis­pute and have threat­ened to stop work­ing night shifts and week­ends.

They have given Msun­duzi Mu­nic­i­pal­ity 48 hours to re­spond to their griev­ances, and in­cluded a de­mand to have the fire de­part­ment’s man­agers sacked.

But man­age­ment said their staff knew cer­tain salary cuts would be im­ple­mented in ex­change for other ben­e­fits.

If the fire­fight­ers act on their threats, it could ham­per op­er­a­tions at Pi­eter­mar­itzburg (Oribi) Air­port, which must have fire­fight­ers on site.

And even though they can­not strike in terms of reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing es­sen­tial ser­vices, the fire­fight­ers in­sisted they were pre­pared to fol­low through with their warn­ings.

Yes­ter­day, off-duty mem­bers gath­ered at their head­quar­ters in town.

They told Week­end Wit­ness about 120 of them, work­ing in Eden­dale, Oribi, at head­quar­ters and Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Air­port, re­ceived smaller salaries last month.

They claimed they would no longer work over­time, week­ends and dur­ing their lunchtime be­cause they weren’t be­ing paid for the ad­di­tional hours.

“No­body wants to work with­out get­ting pay,” said one fire­fighter.

At the cen­tre of the dis­pute is a col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment, which was signed in July 2011 and only im­ple­mented in Jan­uary.

The fire­fight­ers claim only cer­tain sec­tions of the agree­ment are be­ing ap­plied and as a re­sult they are los­ing out on al­lowance pay.

One fire­fighter said their salaries keep on get­ting cut ev­ery two to three months. “The last straw was last month when I lost about R6 000 of my salary and the worst thing is we were never con­sulted about this.”

Fire­fight­ers called on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to in­ter­vene. “We also want the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager to get rid of the fire de­part­ment man­age­ment and hu­man re­sources for fail­ing to in­ter­pret the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment cor­rectly,” said one.

Fire­fight­ers said in terms of the agree­ment they were sup­posed to work 45-hour shifts per week and any ad­di­tional hours at­tracted over­time pay.

“We work 48 hours per week, so we should be paid for the ex­tra three hours,” said the same fire­fighter.

The stand-off has got Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Cham­ber of Busi­ness (PCB) wor­ried.

CEO Me­lanie Ve­ness said: “If fire­fight­ers were to with­hold ser­vices on the week­end, the PCB’s only con­cern would be around ser­vice de­liv­ery, par­tic­u­larly at the air­port. The mu­nic­i­pal man­ager has, how­ever, al­layed those con­cerns, by as­sur­ing me that there are con­tin­gency plans in place should fire­fight­ers not work over the week­end.”

Se­nior di­vi­sional of­fi­cer in charge of op­er­a­tions at the fire de­part­ment, Es­sack Khan, said they were im­ple­ment­ing what was agreed by the South African Lo­cal Government As­so­ci­a­tion and var­i­ous stake­hold­ers which stip­u­late that night shift al­lowance will be cut to 11% from 20%.

“Our work­ers should have known that this agree­ment was go­ing to be tak­ing some of their ben­e­fits away, while they would be en­joy­ing other ben­e­fits,” said Khan.

Msun­duzi mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Mx­olisi Nkosi said he had not re­ceived any griev­ances.

“They need to for­ward their griev­ances to me so that we can ur­gently try to re­solve the prob­lem,” he said. • thobani.ngqulunga@wit­


Frus­trated fire­fight­ers dis­cuss their salary cuts at the fire de­part­ment yes­ter­day.

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