Joburg EMS disputes claims made by firefighters

Following an EWN Special Report, EMS is adamant there's no culture of fear within its environment.

Johannesburg firefighters meet emergency services's management in Kempton Park on 11 June 2015. Picture: Louise McAuliffe/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) Operations Director Mhlengi Makhubalo is adamant there's no culture of fear in the EMS and has disputed claims by firefighters that there's not enough equipment to carry out their duties.

Makhubalo this morning responded to an Eyewitness News Special Report in which firefighters have complained about appalling working conditions.

Initially, seven firefighters came forward claiming they face a lack of vital equipment including stations that don't have working toilets, and poor support from management.

They said they can even spend up to R1,000 a month of their own money on materials they need to do their jobs.

At least 50 others challenged management in a bargaining council on Thursday morning, calling on management to address, what they called, a gross violation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Makhubalo said there are challenges, but these are being addressed.

"Our doors are open to our employees. We also look at the well-being of our employees. We'll not put the lives of our firefighters at risk."

He said the firefighters are distracting the public from the real issues.

"They want us to lose the focus, where we're focusing as management."

WATCH: _Firemen ditch unions to represent themselves _

FIREFIGHTER TRAINING

In the latest developments in the EWN Special Report, firefighters have said they have not received proper training since 2008 and that operational equipment has not been checked for up to 20 years.

The claims by firemen are among a long list outlined in a report compiled by the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) this year revealing that the situation has worsened over the last seven years.

A lack of training, unsafe equipment and senior firefighters with 30 years of experience being paid the same as entry level colleagues, are among a litany of complaints that Imatu said are not being dealt with.

A former senior fireman has told EWN that due to a lack of training some colleagues are too scared to respond to emergency calls.

"We've had incidents where the guys are scared of the fires and don't even want to go into the fire."

Imatu claims nothing has been done since the problems were first brought to the attention of the Department of Labour, way back in 2008.

The union's Mark Gericke hopes the department will now be forced to listen.

"We have requested a meeting with the city manager."

Imatu has also tried several times to schedule a meeting with the Johannesburg mayor and the department, but claims it's had no response from either over the years.