MD Message June 2018
This month, we commemorated the first anniversary of the Knysna fires of June 2017, which became the biggest single disaster that a local municipality in South Africa ever had to incur.
We joined thousands of people throughout South Africa, and more in particular the people of Knysna, in honouring the memory of those who lost their lives. Moreover, we saluted the bravery of all our firefighters who helped in the biggest single deployment of firefighting resources in the history of this country. In addition, as part of this one-year commemoration, we also launched our own account of the heroic efforts of Working on Fire’s teams in our book, Knysna 12 Days of Service. Once again, a big thank you to all our firefighters and partners who contributed to these efforts.
I want to address in this edition the issue of discipline and respect in Working on Fire, which has in the past always been at heart of what we do in this programme. When we launched our ‘Back to Basics’ campaign in June 2017, our management team and I took time to engage our participants in addressing some of the challenges which was putting a huge strain on our operations. Over the past twelve months, we have also sent out communiques addressing and resolving matters raised by firefighters and employees during the roadshows, such as the public holidays payment, fire season working hours and incorrect application of our disciplinary procedures.
However, despite having addressed some of these major challenges, the issue of discipline amongst some of our firefighters is beginning to become a problem. Discipline is a key element of what makes Working on Fire a unique programme, on the fire line it can be a matter of life or death and we will find it difficult to function without high levels of discipline.
Most of our firefighters understand the importance of discipline and I want to reiterate the fact that we will not compromise on this issue and those who find themselves behaving in an undisciplined manner will be facing the consequences of their misconduct. In this regard, we reiterate our policy on all employees being free to join a union but emphasise that any conduct of union activities must be within the law and misconduct under the banner of union activities will not be tolerated.
Moreover, as argued at the CCMA in the NUMSA matter, an EPWP programme, WoF is not able to negotiate with unions on the issue of wages.