PE lifeguards abandon posts over pay

OFF DUTY: An empty lifeguard tower at Hobie Beach yesterday. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
OFF DUTY: An empty lifeguard tower at Hobie Beach yesterday. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

NELSON Mandela Bay lifeguards who abandoned their posts at three Port Elizabeth beaches over payment issues yesterday are expected to be back on duty today.

About 20 lifeguards, who are employed seasonally by the municipality, left their stations at the Kings, Humewood and Hobie beaches after allegedly not getting paid for October and November.

Besides fears for the safety of beach-goers, the protest sparked concerns that the lack of lifeguards would affect the beaches’ Blue Flag status as safety is one of the key factors in being awarded the status.

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki confirmed the payment issues between the lifeguards and the municipality’s pay office, but said the municipality would not “necessarily call the action a strike”.

“There have been some issues of dissatisfaction around payments as the result of a glitch in human resources, which effects the payments.

“The lifeguards are however expected to be back on the beaches [today].

“The lifeguards met with municipal officials [yesterday] and some of the issues have already been resolved.

“The lifeguards will return to their posts while outstanding issues are being addressed.

“So there should be no threat to beach safety or the Blue Flag status,” he said.

Former city councillor and avid water sports enthusiast Stanford Slabbert said he had been alerted to the problem when no lifeguards were seen at one of the beaches.

“Lifeguards had the same problems at the end of both 2013 and last year,” he said.

“I believe that the problem stemmed from the payment system, in that lifeguards were paid in arrears – they would only be paid, for example at the end of November, after having worked through both October and November.

“This put the guards, many of whom have no other job, in a bad financial position.”

Slabbert called on the municipality to ensure that the lifeguards were treated properly as they safeguarded some of the metro’s most important tourism and leisure assets.

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