Fighting fire with fire

Disgruntled Working on Fire employees marched in Polokwane last Wednesday. Insert: One of the employees, surrounded by colleagues, holds a board aloft that shows the group's demands.

POLOKWANE – Disgruntled employees handed over a memorandum at the Working on Fire offices in Polokwane last Wednesday, demanding that the department not undermine them.

Kgomo says they are fed-up with the “peanuts” they earn every month.

“We need a basic salary and medical aid because our work is dangerous. It is a pity that when we go to the Department of Labour we are told that we earn R17 000 per month, but we do not earn that,” Kgomo said.

“Our contracts stipulate that we are hired permanently, so we are surprised at the low salaries we are earning. The contract we signed is a contract of employment with Working on Fire, not for the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP),” he says.

Kgomo says a basic minimum salary of R17 000 per month should be paid to them due to the type of work they do.

One of the WOF employees, surrounded by colleagues, holds a board aloft that shows their demands.

“We need an agreement between us and management, regarding overtime and monthly payments.” He explained that they have been struggling for a long time and that should come to an end now. We are not going to rest, and we will fight for our rights until our demands are met,” he said.

Peter Mello, a WOF employee, says it is painful that they are undermined when they are hard at work to save people’s lives.

“We have been deployed overseas several times but were not paid well. We cannot support our families with the amount of R1 500 per month they pay us. This is not enough,” Mello stated.

His colleague, Patrick Phahlane, says the department should treat them with respect because they are also human beings.

“I am struggling to meet my needs with the low salary I am earning and that is affecting me negatively. It is unfortunate that we generate a lot of money for the department which we do not receive. We have had enough with these low salaries,” Phahlane said.

Louwrens Britz, WOF Ground Operations Manager, says the department respects and understand the workers’ demands, which will receive attention from management.

“This may however take time, but we promise that we will attend to the matter, and that feedback will be given within a given time,” Britz promised.

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Desmond Boshego

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