Boy drowns as lifeguards continue to strike

By Kamini Padayachee & Ntokozo Mfusi

A second person drowned at Durban's Wedge Beach on Sunday as the strike by municipal lifeguards continued into its third weekend.

National Sea Rescue Institute spokesperson Craig Lambinon said four volunteer lifeguards on duty were suddenly faced with rescuing 19 people when the high tide came in.

"A large set of waves came in with the increasing high tide and swamped the beach. Some people were swept off their feet and others were swept into the sea. Lifeguards managed to bring all of them to shore. They tried to resuscitate one man, but he was declared dead by paramedics."

Two weeks ago, with no lifeguards to help, Lungelo Ngcobo, 14, who had gone to the beach on a school trip, drowned when he went to help his classmates who were in difficulty in the water.

Volunteer lifeguards were on duty as municipal lifeguards had stayed away over a dispute with the management over weekend pay.

The workers want a five-day week and overtime pay for weekend work, but the municipality has refused to negotiate because of an agreement reached with the unions last year. The agreement states that workers will get two days off a week and no weekend allowance.

The unions and municipal officials met last week, but no agreement was reached.

SA Municipal Workers' Union chairman Rogers Duma said they wanted the matter to be resolved quickly.

"We do not want to leave the beaches unattended during the busy weekends, but the workers must be compensated for the weekends they work."

Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union chairman Dempsey Perumal said the municipality's proposal at the last meeting was not good enough.

"The proposal they offered us at the last meeting was a revision of the previous agreement with a slight adjustment. This is not what the workers want - they want to be paid when they work weekends."

Municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe said he would not negotiate with the unions.

"We are not going to talk to illegal strikers. The workers should return to work. Lifeguards from lifesaving clubs are attending to the beaches over the weekend and some municipal lifeguards are working weekends despite heavy intimidation."

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