The building that went up in flames in the Joburg city centre on Wednesday had been identified as a fire hazard years ago – but the union reps who reported it were dismissed.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union said that shop stewards raised concerns about the building prior to Wednesday’s fire.
“As a union we have been consistently raising about the defects in the building since 2014,” Nehawu’s Gauteng provincial secretary Tshepo Mokheranyana said.
Three fire fighters were killed while battling the blaze that engulfed the 23rd floor of the building occupied by the Gauteng departments of health and human settlements.
The fire broke out at the offices of the provincial departments on Sauer Street in the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday.
Nehawu said that, when its shop stewards made efforts to address these concerns as far back as 2014, they were dismissed.
“In 2014, our members protested, but instead of management addressing the concerns, shop stewards were suspended, charged and dismissed after a disciplinary process,” Mokheranyana explained.
Gauteng Infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo informed officials who worked in the building that it would be closed until further notice.
“The officials that were all working in this building will be allowed to stay at home until we find a suitable alternative where the officials can report for duty,” he said.
Addressing media outside the burning building, Mamabolo said the cause of the fire was unknown, however, the provincial government, together with the City of Johannesburg, would wait for a report on the cause of the tragedy.
Staff at the building told News24 that this was the third fire this year.
Joe Mpisi, who is a member of the portfolio committee on infrastructure, said that this was not the only building in the city that needed to be looked at.
“We discussed the state of a number of buildings within the city, particularly government buildings, and we raised the concern that there was danger coming to this particular building. We are worried about the state of our buildings in this city,” Mpisi told News 24.
Nehawu has encouraged workers to refrain from reporting to work until issues at the building are resolved.
“The conditions here are unbearable. They don’t allow for workers to be working in such a building. We have told our members not to report for duty until such time that management attends to our issues,” Mokheranyana said.
– SAnews.gov.za and News24