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Pretoria - Three months after a new shift system was implemented, Tshwane Metro police officers say the system is not working.
They claim they are overworked and their family lives are suffering.
They say their desire and determination to work has evaporated and they now turn away from crime scenes to avoid working.
Pretoria News spoke to several employees who all shared the same sentiments. They want the previous 12-hour shift to be reinstated.
The new shift was implemented on May 1 and saw the 12-hour (6am-6pm and vice versa) being replaced with an eight-hour shift, including a “split shift or quick change” shift.
The shifts run from 5am-1pm, 1pm-9pm and 9pm-5am.
Metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said they were aware of some unhappiness but said the new shift was implemented to improve service delivery.
According to Mahamba, with the previous shift, there was a two-hour period during which the community was not serviced.
“This was at the beginning and end of every shift because of the parade. Members were not on the road for about two hours, thus the community’s needs were not being attended to, which was unacceptable because we have to put the needs of the community first,” he said.
But officers say the new system gives them little or no time to get proper rest and to conduct normal daily activities during shifts.
“I haven’t got time to fix things around the house that my wife can’t do. I need to sort out stuff at the bank but can’t even do that because if I’m lucky to be at home during the day, I am so tired all I do is sleep. My family life is also suffering. There is no time to spend with my kids, or go to any of their school activities. What can I teach my young son if I am never there and when I am tired and moody?” one officer asked.
Another said he and other members often turned away from accident scenes because they just don’t have the energy to be productive. He said officers were “gatvol” and didn’t even want to issue fines.
According to them, a general “no work attitude” has taken over.
Another officer said members rather used vehicles to sleep in than patrol. “We are just too tired. The problem comes with the quick change because you might just have finished a shift, go home rest, then you have to be back for the quick change.”
A wife of one officer said her marriage was suffering.
“My husband is always at work and when he is home he is tired. We fight when he is home over little things because we are both so frustrated. There is no time to even be a couple,” she said.
Officers said their pleas not to implement the shift fell on deaf ears. But Mahamba said management had always been in talks with unions.
He said that when the Tshwane Metro Police was started, the 12-hour shift was a pilot shift to see if it would work. “We then concluded it was not working because of the time that members were not servicing the community. That was when we engaged in talks with the members’ unions, Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union and SA Municipal Workers Union.”
According to Mahamba, consultations and meetings between the unions and management were to no avail as they could not agree.
“We then went to the council and mayor’s office and they took aspects from all sides into consideration and granted us authority to implement the shift. Unions were informed six months in advance that the new shift would be effective from May 1. This gave them time to prepare and follow the correct procedures to challenge the order, but instead they waited till the shift was implemented and then engaged in illegal strikes.”
Members who participated in the strike, including those in management, those who requested sick leave or leave but still participated in the strike, were then issued with disciplinary notices.
Officers say they have addressed the issue with management and the unions but have not received any answers.
Mahamba said consultations were done with unions, who in turn had to consult with their members.
He urged disgruntled members to address the issues with their unions. Mahamba said that with the new eight-hour shift, members still worked the same hours as they did with the 12-hour shift.