28 May 2018

Swaziland: Swazi Firefighters Threaten Strike

Firefighters in Swaziland are threatening to strike because they are being forced to work in 'appalling conditions'. Government funding is so bad they have to buy their own uniforms and safety equipment.

'We have been buying ourselves uniforms because it takes years for the department to supply us and the quality is deplorable for us, as we need heat-resistant uniforms due to the environment we work under,' one firefighter told the Observer on Saturday newspaper (26 May 2018).

With the wild grass fire season starting, firefighters say they do not have masks to prevent smoke inhalation. Other equipment such as gloves are also not available.

One officer told the newspaper there were also problems in the fire stations and dormitories. It added, 'Firefighters said the Mbabane station was just a health hazard to employees, they said if health inspectors could do their work at the station, no doubt it could be closed.'

Firefighters said they had to buy lightbulbs for the guard house and had inadequate heating. They also said their communications system was no longer working and they often had to use their own cell phones during emergencies.

Swaziland National Fire and Emergency Services (SNFES) spokesperson Herbert Shabangu told the newspaper, 'It's a trying moment for the government department as there is no money for doing most of the key things for emergency service.'

If they do strike, the firefighters could find themselves in legal trouble. The Swazi Government in 2015 declared SNFES personnel were 'a uniformed service' like the police and army and were not permitted to strike.

Firefighters are members of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU).


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