The City of Cape Town is due to meet firefighters following a threat by the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) to down tools due to allegations of poor working conditions.

The union says firefighters are being required to work long hours without any form of compensation.

City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith, rejects the allegations.

“The 24-hour shift system is a long standing thing that is done internationally, where the staff members are on duty for half the time and for the other half they are on standby, they are not working the entire shift. In lieu of the extra time that they are there, they get what is called a standby allowance, which is a 22.5% standby allowance,” explains Smith.

Smith also denies Samwu’s claims that the city is planning to dismiss over 500 firefighters.

“In the new agreement, the city was proposing to increase that [standby allowance to] 35%. Samwu rejected that and their attempts at court were unsuccessful. Samwu then encouraged its members to go into an unprotected and illegal strike and as a consequence they are now subject to disciplinary action,” he adds.

On Wednesday, Samwu said the workers who are being disciplined got into trouble for clocking out after eight hours of work as per the Basic Conditions of the Employment Act.

Samwu says the firefighters have been engaged in a wage dispute with the city over the long hours they are required to work on weekends and public holidays since 2010.

The union says the firefighters intend to join the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in its upcoming public servants’ wage strike.

Cosatu mobilises strike over wages: