The City of Cape Town has forced firefighters to go back to work to their usual working hours after getting a Labour Court order, according to the firefighters’ union.
In a statement, the City claims it reached “an interim agreement” with members of the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) on Tuesday October 8.
Since the start of the month, about 80% of the City’s firefighters have only worked 40-hour work weeks, from 8am to 4:30pm, because they are unhappy with the present overtime-pay structure.
They wanted to earn the same rate they do for overtime as they do for normal shifts.
The City statement says the matter will be heard in the Labour Court on Friday November 29, and the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said that in the meantime, firefighters would work their regular working hours, including 24-hour shifts regardless of which union they belong to.
The City has agreed to lift the suspension of 26 firefighters, but the employees will still face a disciplinary action after the court case.
In the coming weeks. Mr Smith said, parties would be required to file their heads or arguments in preparation for the hearing in the Labour Court at the end of November.
Mr Smith encouraged the firefighters to work together in the interest of residents and to abide by the court order.
But Samwu representative Archie Hearn denied that any agreement had been reached.
“We have received an interdict from the Labour Court to work our previous shifts until the matter is heard in November. If the court files in our favour, we will be happy, but if not, then the firefighters will accept the outcome as well.”
A firefighter, who did not want to be named, told the Northern News that the suspensions had been done randomly in what firefighters believed was a scare tactic.
While some fire stations were closed during the past week because of the pay dispute, the City’s director for safety and security Richard Bosman said the fire service had been able to respond to all call-outs at the weekend.
“The City’s Fire and Rescue Services received 89 calls at the weekend which included 40 motor vehicle accidents, two rescues, four trauma incidents, one drowning, three medical incidents, two incidents involving transport, four fires in an informal settlement, one in a storage and one that occurred in a shop.”
On top of the fight for a better allowance rate the firefighters also have a longstanding battle with the City regarding their food allowances.
“While working a 24-hour shift, firefighters are expected to feed themselves with R34 a day,” said Mr Hearn.
Mr Hearn said the City disaster employees received between R50 and R60 a meal while on duty, but that could not be confirmed with the City despite media inquiries.
“These firefighters are called out to traumatic scenes which change their entire outlook on life. Having to experience these sights while also taking into consideration the various training that they have to go through, their demands are not unreasonable.”