JOHANNESBURG – The firefighters were warned about the illegality of the strike.
Despite having 127 firefighters suspended recently for embarking on an unlawful strike, City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said services at the municipality would not be affected by the loss of manpower.
Two hundred and thirty Emergency Management Services (EMS) employees had embarked on a strike in July demanding police protection during call-outs following a spate of attacks on them and the fire engines. They also raised concerns over the shortage of fire engines.
“It is very unfortunate that people would expect us to operate outside the law. As a City, we have just signed a memorandum of agreement with labour unions and anyone expecting us to operate outside that, it’s unfortunate and we are not going to be held to ransom,” said Mashaba.
He added that EMS had formed a striking management task team with station commanders immediately after they were informed about the strike to address the concerns raised which resulted in some employees returning to work.
Section 65(1)(d)(i) of the Labour Relations Act states, “No person may take part in a strike or a lock-out or in any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of a strike or lock-out if – that person is engaged in – an essential service”.
Mashaba said the firefighters who had engaged in the strike refused to attend to emergency calls made to the Jabulani, Johannesburg Central, Ivory Park, and Rosebank fire stations.
“The City is conscious about its employees’ rights and will always be progressive in advancing these rights. Given that some firefighters still refused to return to work, another meeting between management and the firefighters was held on 15 July 2019. After the City’s efforts to try and resolve the dispute amicably and follow due processes, unfortunately, 127 firefighters still refused to return to work.”
According to Mashaba, the firefighters were warned about the illegality of the strike which contravened the Labour Relations Act which states that no person may take part in a strike or a lock-out if that person is engaged in an essential service. “This not only affects the city’s emergency services but had the potential of putting residents’ lives in danger.”
The City later obtained a court order interdicting the firefighters from engaging in the strike. “EMS has since made arrangements to ensure that emergency services in the city are not affected and its 109 ambulances will continue to run across Johannesburg. EMS will continue to engage with the firefighters to ensure that we jointly overcome challenges and continue to serve our residents with pride.”
Source: Midrand reporter