KZN municipality suspends workers for not wearing masks
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DURBAN - FIFTEEN Newcastle Municipality workers have been suspended for failing to wear masks inside the municipality’s premises.
It is alleged that the workers were issued “precautionary suspension” letters on Thursday, suspending them until further notice.
The municipality’s communications manager, Mlungisi Khumalo, confirmed the incident, saying the workers failed to wear masks and had therefore flouted Covid-19 regulations.
He said the “precautionary suspensions” afforded the employees 48 hours to give substantial reasons as to why the municipality should not pursue disciplinary processes.
“The municipality strongly believes that the exercise gave the employees ample opportunity to self-introspect and take into consideration that a deadlier coronavirus third wave can only be minimised by a responsible citizenry, and a much more responsible front line workforce,” he said.
According to Khumalo, a municipal staff member had succumbed to Covid19 in the past few days, while about five workers were quarantining at home after being diagnosed with the virus.
He said none of the suspended workers was among those who had tested positive for Covid-19.
He said the recent cases in the municipality made it clear that stringent measures were necessary.
“It is for this reason that the municipality will not make any apologies for tightening Covid-19 regulations. Such stringent measures are put in place for the sake of our staff and the residents of Newcastle.
“It is illogical to relax Covid-19 rules at the municipality, and the municipality will not under any circumstances allow its buildings to become epicentres of the pandemic,” he said.
Khumalo said most of the staff members who received precautionary suspension letters had, after a thorough self-introspection, acknowledged the seriousness of their offence.
“Our priority is to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 third wave, save lives, and contribute towards the reduction of coronavirus infections, both in Newcastle and South Africa.”
Khumalo added that the municipal offices were being disinfected.
According to a source in the municipality, employees were drinking tea during a tea break when the acting municipal manager, Vish Govender, suspended them for not wearing masks.
“How do you expect workers to wear a mask while you’re on a tea break and you’re drinking tea? That doesn’t make sense. The municipality manager is ill-treating workers,” said the source.
The SA Municipal Workers Union chairperson in Newcastle, Nhlanhla Mfusi, said they were shocked by the news.
“Our members were suspended for not wearing masks during teatime. Teatime is just 15 minutes, so a worker can not leave and go outside to have tea. They consume it inside the premises.”
He said that they were also concerned about the way employees had been treated.
“We are angry, and we are going to investigate this matter. For us, this was just a mission to target our members. We also don’t believe that our workers were at fault,” he said.
In November 2019, more than 223 workers were dismissed by the municipality following a protest over the non-payment of overtime.
The workers took the matter to the Labour Court. The union has claimed that the action is the main reason why service delivery has been seriously affected in the municipality.
“The matter is still at the Labour Court and this has affected the municipality’s service delivery. Newcastle was the cleanest town in the province and country. However, looking at the dirtiness of the municipality, it’s just a shame that the standard has fallen this much,” said Mfusi after being asked about progress in the matter.