- Ministry to review the Fire Act

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has expressed its intention to review the outdated Fire Act.

A cab-memo has been sent to cabinet for approval, after which the review process will commence. Assurance has been made by both the Ministry and DPSM that all stakeholders will be involved and Botswana Landboard, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) said in a progress Report for Fire fighters’ cadre.

According to BLLAHWU, following the Introduction of the Scarce Skills in 2008, the Union believed that the Fire cadre was omitted as there were a few fire specialists in the market to the extent that government hired expatriates.

The union requested for the introduction of Scarce Skills to the cadre at a rate of 30 percent for Degrees and 15 percent for Diplomas.

"Ministry agreed with our proposal and wrote to Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) requesting for scarce Skills for the cadre. Despite all the justification made, DPSM rejected the request with the pretext that they are in the process of abolishing scarce skills."

On the issue of standby allowance for fire officers, BLLAHWU stated that the matter affects Fire Officers from Chobe District Council, Southern District Council and Kgalagadi District Council who are compelled to work on standby basis without being compensated for working such.

“The union requested Ministry to compensate officers for working on standby basis as officers are forced to work extended hours. In response, Ministry indicated that standby allowance was only provided for industrial class employees through R.I.E as such believe it cannot be paid Fire personnel.

“Further to that Ministry believed that already Fire Personnel are paid 30 percent overtime allowance in compensation for extended hours worked. The matter has been escalated to DPSM as we believe officers qualify to be compensated with either overtime or be paid standby,” the report reads.

On the issue of competency, the union indicated that there are disparities between the Competency Based Career Path (CBCP) and Job Effectiveness Description (JEDs) for fire cadre especially on the issue of Experience Vs qualification.

This brought confusion during recruitment as some Local Authorities used Experience over Qualification, whilst others used qualification over experience.

In approaching the Ministry, the union requested that the anomaly be corrected and alignment be done so that the two (CBCP and JEDs) speak to each other. The report states that upon investigation, Ministry identified that indeed there is a disparity and advised Local Authorities to use JEDs as they are more explicit. Currently the new CBCP has been developed and awaits approval by DPSM.

According to the report, following the introduction of multiple grading Titling in many cadres in 2009, the fire cadre was once included and later on retracted without any valid reason.

The union advocated for the re-instatement of the Multiple-titling into the cadre, as they believed it would help to address the issue of stagnation in the cadre especially at C- Band, which would eventually have a pushing effect on the lower grades.

"Ministry agreed with union suggestion and commissioned investigations so as to identify what caused the stoppage. A meeting was held with different fire personnel to address the matter but unfortunately it was rejected by the same personnel as they believe that will not work as fire cadre works with command or ranks just like discipline forces”, reads the progress report.