Overtime pay cut a threat to KZN Easter traffic safety

22 March 2018 - 12:52 By Nivashni Nair
File photo of traffic officers at the Mariannhill Toll Plaza in KwaZulu-Natal.
File photo of traffic officers at the Mariannhill Toll Plaza in KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Sowetan/ Thuli Dlamini

There will be Easter eggs and hot cross buns‚ but don't count on the familiar sight of KwaZulu-Natal traffic officers on freeways at night.

On the eve of one of the busiest holiday weekends‚ the KwaZulu-Natal Transport department is scrambling to ensure that Road Traffic Inspectorate officials are patrolling freeways at night as thousands of motorists are expected to make their way to the province.

This follows a Public Service and Administration department directive that overtime pay be limited to 30% of an employee's salary.

Last year‚ Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi announced that the Easter death toll increased by 51% from 156 fatalies in 2016 to 235 in 2017. He said most fatal crashes occurred between 6pm to 10pm and in the early hours of the morning.

"This will have severe consequences as officials will only be able to patrol roads for a certain period. So after 10pm until about 6am there will be no RTI officials on the roads‚" Public Servants Association provincial manager Claude Naicker said.

Besides the impact on serious road crash sites at night‚ operations at various testing stations on Saturdays may be affected.

“Members of the public who can only have vehicles tested on a Saturday or licenses renewed on a Saturday‚ will encounter problems as there will be either a limited [amount of] officials or insufficient time to perform these services‚” Naicker said.

He said the KwaZulu-Natal transport department had the power to exempt the RTI officials from the directive. "The circular was sent out in February‚ yet just days before Easter we still do not have a clear indication if the overtime cap of 30% will be removed to ensure that officials will be able to execute their duties to the full extent."

"The PSA engaged the department some time ago and indicated that plans need to be in place in good time to address this type of problem. Traffic officials are becoming increasingly frustrated at the delay in addressing this matter."

Naicker said traffic officers would not work more than their required overtime without a legitimate contract stating that they would get paid for it.

KwaZulu-Natal Transport departmental spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said MEC Mxolisi Kaunda was in the process of writing a letter to the Minister of Public Service and Administration to exempt traffic officers from the directive. "This is not just a KwaZulu-Natal issue. The 30% cut has always been there but we have always made submission for the traffic officers to be exempted‚ especially during the period when we are intensifying our campaign to reduce road fatalities in the province."

"We are quite optimistic that it will not affect the normal operations‚ however we are working towards closing that gap where this might occur as a result of this directive."

Ncalane said Kaunda planned to meet all heads of traffic departments in the province and the police on Friday to discuss "how to complement each other".

"We are also engaging with the Road Traffic Management Corporation for national officials to beef up patrols where we may need it."