Fatal fire: Shop stewards who raised concerns about safety at Joburg building were dismissed - Nehawu

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) says shop stewards who raised concerns about a Gauteng government building in the Johannesburg CBD prior to Wednesday's fire were dismissed. 

Workers at the building, which is shared by the departments of health, human settlements and co-operative governance, were evacuated after a fire broke out on the 23rd floor, allegedly due to an electrical fault. 

News24 reported that three firefighters have died after battling a blaze in a building belonging to the Gauteng government.

Their deaths were confirmed by the Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure Development, Jacob Mamabolo at a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon.

"As a union, we have been consistently raising [awareness] about the defects in the building since 2014," Nehawu's Gauteng provincial secretary Tshepo Mokheranyana said. 

Staff at the building told News24 that this was the third fire this year. 

Nehawu said that when its shop stewards made efforts to address these concerns as far back as 2014, they were dismissed. 

Unbearable working conditions

"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 MPL 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. 

All workers within the building were evacuated.

Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure Development Jacob Mamabolo confirmed the deaths at a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon.

"The building does not comply with occupational health and safety, was not compliant with the basic regulations," he told the briefing. 

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