The common feature at road traffic accidents where fire officers perform paramedical and other incidental services like vehicle extrication may be a thing of the past as the Botswana Land Board Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) takes the government to task over the legality and appropriateness of the practice.
According to Ketlhalifile Motshegwa, secretary general BLLAHWU, the Ministry of Local Government as the employer does not recognize that fire officers are performing paramedical duties yet it is highly expected of them to perform such under what the union considers a charitable and exploitative arrangement.
“If the Ministry is interested in the paramedical duties being performed by fire officers, then the arrangement should be that such duties be incorporated in the job descriptions of fire officers, then there be re-grading of the posts and consequently the officers be relevantly and properly remunerated taking cognizant of the new functions augmented. If this fails to be undertaken by the employer, then it will be proper that Fire officers desist from performing such duties since they do not fall within their scope of work nor are they registered with the relevant regulatory body to undertake such,” Motshegwa said.
Despite the officers being subjected to horrendous and traumatic circumstances at road accidents, Motshegwa said the counselling and emotional management of fire officers is greatly neglected within councils and fire stations.
“Since fire officers are categorised as essential service employees, it is suffice to point out that their conditions of service such as accommodation are pathetic. The operations of the fire stations are that they should be manned 24 hours and further the need from prompt response time which is proving to be a predicament as most fire officers are running short of accommodation and end up staying far from stations,” he said.
BLLAHWU also seeks to compel fire services to create a post of Director for the profession at the ministry because currently nobody is conversant with the profession. Furthermore the union calls for re-alignment of fire cadre structure to allow for progression and eliminate gaps in the structure.
Asked to comment on whether they have considered that the move to recall fire officers from accident scenes will put the lives of Batswana in danger, Motshegwa was adamant that, “we have a government and employer who believes in creating a crisis in order to act, so we are going to create a crisis so that our government takes action and considers fire officers concerns. We believe that when we have an issue with the employer and if all the parties resolve the issue, no Motswana will die at accident scenes,” he said.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Polelo Khumomatlhare told The Gazette that he reported to work yesterday (Monday) and was therefore not aware and never been briefed about the matter. “When the brief was done this morning, I was not informed that BLLAHWU has taken that stand. I will have to enquire with the person who was acting,” he said.