Cape Town – No decision has been taken to fire more than 500 firefighters as the South African Union of Municipal Workers (Samwu) wrongly claims, the city of Cape Town reports.
A proposal has been made to resolve the issue involving 439 firefighters, so that any possible dismissal sanctions can be avoided, the city said in a statement Thursday.
He also put it in writing, confirming both to Samwu and to the independent municipal and allied union that he was prepared to review the collective agreement on the working conditions of firefighters at any time.
“Samwu is the only party to delay a new deal for the firefighters by submitting unreasonable and unaffordable demands,” the city said.
An illegal strike in 2019 closed half of the city’s fire stations until an urgent ban was granted for the safety of all residents.
“ A smaller group of individuals totaling 55 firefighters face more serious charges of endangering residents by actively inciting and organizing the illegal strike and the city intends to conduct these disciplinary hearings given the gravity of these actions, ” the city said.
The labor court ruled that Samwu had no right to incite this illegal strike, especially since firefighting is a designated essential service.
In all fairness, the City had no choice but to initiate disciplinary proceedings for all those who participated in the abandonment of their essential service positions for several days, despite prior warnings that it was illegal. .
However, we can categorically state that the City does not decide on the sanction to be imposed on the firefighters who participated in the illegal strike. Such a sanction would be decided by a chairman independent of the disciplinary process.
The City has in fact entered into talks with Samwu outside of the disciplinary process to resolve the issue concerning 439 firefighters in order to avoid any possible dismissal sanction.
The city’s proposal to Samwu in this regard was sent to them on April 8, 2021 already and Samwu however did not accept this offer and it also appears that Samwu did not keep its members informed about it.
As a result, the individual firefighters contacted the Office of the Acting Executive Director: Safety and Security to check on the status of the disciplinary process and the Acting Director General therefore deemed it appropriate to meet with the firefighters to give them an update.
This meeting took place today at Cape Town Stadium and the Acting Director General explained to them what the city’s proposal was to avoid any possible dismissal sanctions and urged them to consider such a proposal. Since the City considers this meeting to be an internal employer / employee meeting, it does not consider it appropriate to disclose the details of the proposal at this stage. ”
Collective agreement on the stand-by allowance for firefighters
“To date, the 24-hour shift system has been adhered to in all collective agreements between the city and all unions representing firefighters, including Samwu,” the city said.
Since fires can occur at any time, the 24 hour shift system is rational, necessary and beneficial to public safety and firefighters. On average, a firefighter works 7.5 hours more per month than other City employees.
The difference is as follows: firefighters are emergency responders of essential services, paid an availability allowance that is much higher than the availability allowance paid to other categories of personnel for their availability. This standby allowance is payable as compensation for their schedule of 10 24-hour shifts per month, with free time in between.
” Although station personnel must be on-site and on standby after normal working hours, in addition to other occasional duties and handling emergency calls, downtime is available to continue operations. activities of their choice. Dormitories, rooms, beds and bedding as well as leisure facilities are provided.
Samwu’s demand for standby pay to be 79% of base salary – that would amount to nearly R 250 million more per year. The City previously offered 35%, compared to 22.8% currently, supported by an independent arbitration recommendation, which the parties had voluntarily accepted. This offer was rejected by SAMWU.
Different grades of firefighters have different pay scales and their current base rates vary between R52.28 and R152.96 per hour, depending on rank and seniority. In addition to the basic rate, an amount of approximately 40% of this basic rate is payable for benefits such as contributions to the Pension Fund and medical aid and the current standby allowance of 22.8% is also payable in addition to the base rate.
The City is ready to revise the current collective agreement at any time and any changes to the hours of work and benefits for firefighters will be negotiated between the City and the two unions.
If Samwu is not satisfied with the outcome of collective bargaining, the law even grants them the option of compulsory arbitration, with a full opportunity to present their point of view before an independent panelist.
The truth is, Samwu is actively delaying a new deal for firefighters because they know their 79% demand is unreasonable and unaffordable. ”