While all of the City of Cape Town’s fire stations were operating with a full staff complement on Tuesday, it would have to “wait and see” if this remains the case come 16:30 after the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) warned that firefighters would no longer work overtime owing to a pay dispute.
About 60% of firefighters were affiliated to the union.
“All stations are fully manned,” City of Cape Town director for safety and security Richard Bosman said at midday.
According to mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith, the fire service’s work hours are regulated by an agreement to which Samwu is a signatory.
“What we are effectively dealing with here is the untenable situation created by the impasse caused by Samwu who walked away from the formal arbitration process as governed by the Labour Relations Act, indicating that they would prefer to go to the Labour Court, which they have not done,” Smith said.
“However, they have also not returned to the arbitration process either, which means we have been stuck in this impasse for quite some time, which is not in the interests of the public or the firefighters or the City. Only Samwu can remove the deadlock.
“This is not a disagreement between the City and firefighters but a conflict between the City and Samwu.”
Samwu’s Sebenzile Kiva previously explained that firefighters were employed to work 40 hours a week but, in most cases, they ended up working between 72 and 80 hours a week.
Provincial secretary John Mcanjana said firefighters would fulfil their contractual obligations and work their required eight hours and clock out at 16:30.
Bosman explained that it has a firefighting staff complement of more than 900, with a minimum of 240 firefighters on duty at the 30 fire stations at any given time.
“The minimum resource requirement for a fire station is one fire engine and a maximum of six staff members. Critical fire stations have already been identified where a minimum level of service will still be available to the City,” he said.
“Should Samwu members refuse to work the standby hours, the Fire and Rescue Service will redeploy staff on duty to critical fire stations where any staff shortages may occur, call on day shift staff on the standby roster to man critical appliances (vehicles), call on staff on their rest days to make up any staffing shortfall and call on assistance from neighbouring municipalities in terms of a standing agreement in the event of major incidents.”
Bosman said disciplinary steps would be initiated against any employee who refuses to work the standby hours as they would be in contravention of their conditions of service.
“Furthermore, there have been threats of intimidation and staff on the receiving end of such threats have been encouraged to report these incidents so that they can be investigated and action taken against the responsible parties.”