EThekwini aquatic contract workers suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions
DURBAN - THE Covid-19 pandemic and level 3 lockdown restrictions have resulted in about 200 employees contracted by the eThekwini Municipality as seasonal pool supervisors and pool attendants losing their jobs.
They are fighting tooth and nail to have their temporary suspension notices overturned. The lockdown alert level 3 restrictions decree is that beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools in areas that are hot spots must be closed to the public.
The employees marched to the Durban City Hall on Monday and handed over a list of the grievances to City management. The City employed them on a contract basis from December 28 to June 30. However, on Thursday, January 7, the parks, leisure and cemeteries department said the seasonal work contract had been temporarily suspended.
The notice handed to employees read that the contract would be temporarily put on hold with effect from January 7 until such time that the lockdown level allows for swimming pools to re-open.
The notice stated that the parks department “undertakes to advise as soon as the Disaster Management Act permits the swimming pools to reopen that you will be recalled back to work on the remaining days of the existing contract which ends 30 June, 2021. Please note that these conditions were not of the council’s making but dictated by the Government Gazette dated 29 December, 2020. In the event that the contract period lapses and the swimming pools have not yet re-opened this contract will be deemed terminated”.
The eThekwini municipality has 54 swimming pools and the coastline under its jurisdiction. A convener of the SA Lifesaving and Aquatic Services Forum, who did not want to be named, said many of the employees came from poor backgrounds.
He listed 129 from Lamontville. The others lived in Chesterville, Umlazi, KwaMashu, Mgababa, Ntuzuma and KwaMakhutha.
He said the manner in which the seasonal employees were notified about their contract being suspended breached many labour laws.
“Some of us received the letters via WhatsApp. It needs careful attention. This undermines the Constitution. Our contracts should not have been suspended. We should have been given alternative work in the city. We are also raising an alarm that there is maladministration in the city. We are concerned. It has a devastating impact on our socio-economic well-being,” he said.
The suspended employees believe the aquatics division must be taken seriously.
“We are one of the backbones of tourism with the city beaches. Recognise us. We do not want to lose our livelihoods. We are capable of assisting with crowd control, enforcing no swimming or bathing restrictions, beach guides and even litter picking,” he said.
EThekwini municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said they were aware of the concerns raised by the employees and have received these in writing.
“Management has met with the concerned group and agreed to provide a written response by the end of the week. In the interest of all those concerned, we are looking at a better way to manage the situation.” Mayisela said.