Mbabane: Apparently,the newly implemented Circular No.4 of 2020 is to blame for the on-going battle between government and the Eswatini National Fire and Emergency Services (ENFES) staff.
Circular No.4 of 2020 entails the implementation of a three-shift system and doing away with overtime work at ENFES. The new legislation came into effect on October 1.
Seemingly, the new circular did not sit well with fire-fighters, hence they resolved to defy it as some were reported to have not reported to work on Monday and Tuesday.
The ongoing clash came into light after an incident which took place on Sunday, where the fire-fighters showed defiance by refusing to alight from a staff kombi hired for them as a staff bus. This was after their shift had come to an end around midnight.
Procedurally, employees are transported within a 20-kilometre radius from their workstations and they are all now mandated to work the 8-hour shift not the 12 hours they were working before the circular was implemented.
It was gathered that when the old system was still effective, the fire personnel would find means to get home when hey knocked off at around 8am, instead of midnight, after working overtime.
The origin of the matter is that the Industrial Court dismissed an application in which the ENFES personnel were seeking an order to stop the implementation of the circular that stopped the payment of overtime, among other issues.
It was reported that government had saved over E20 million by cutting overtime payments for the fire-fighters who were working 12 hours instead of eight a day.
In an exclusive interview with this publication, ENFES Public Relations Officer Herbert Shabangu said he believed that the standoff was a result of the discontinuing of the overtime claims. Shabangu said after all has been said and done the bone of contention was the money the staff lost after the overtime claims were stopped. He said the employees used the transport scenario to fight their battle of the overtime claims.
Shabangu further revealed that in as much as government chopped off the overtime, she somewhat showed her generosity to the employees in two or three ways. This include the fact that during the implementation of the circular, government was supposed to reduce or even withdraw the extended due allowances. This kind of allowance includes 20 percent added to the staff salary when going for maternity leave.
When asked about the safety of the employees more especially when they knock off at mid-night, Shabangu said that issue was addressed in detail in the circular. He said that issue was addressed in black and white in the circular as it was mentioned that for employees who the 20 km radius was inconvenient, the department’s stations would provide dormitories for the staff to stay in until its convenient for them to go to their various places of abode.