The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) has been leading a national strike of the Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) since the 11th November 2020 after the Department of Health refused to permanently employ these workers.
The strike has been marred by intimidation and victimisation of our members and workers by the employer. Underhand tactics have been used left, right and centre to try and stifle our strike which in the main is about fighting for decent employment of these primary healthcare workers. Provincial departments of health have been preoccupied with running to courts to get frivolous interdicts to prevent these workers from exercising their democratic right to strike. Some workers even got injured after being run over by a car driven by a doctor while peacefully picketing outside their workplace in the Eastern Cape.
Even with the odds staked against them these workers have shown a great deal of resilience and courage. They have gallantly sustained their fight for permanent employment and benefits which include medical aid, UIF, provident fund and work uniforms. As NEHAWU, we view this strike as part of the greater gender struggle of fighting for the emancipation of women from slave wages, informal work and exploitation by employers.
The government, especially the Department of Health are aware of the critical role played by these workers especially in providing primary healthcare in townships and rural areas. They further proved their importance during the hard lockdown by playing a central role in the mass screening and testing drive that was driven by government. Even worse, during mass testing and screening these workers had to work overtime which the employer promised to pay. However, they are now ducking and diving when they have to pay the workers overtime. We will not rest until all these workers are paid for their overtime work during the hard lockdown.
These workers are earmarked to play a huge role in the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) which is meant to provide universal access to healthcare for all. However, the National Department of Health has been dragging its feet in ensuring that these workers are employed on a permanent basis yet they exploiting them including paying them peanuts without any job security.
The Health Council which is attended by the Minister and the nine MEC’s from provinces will be meeting on the 26th November 2020 to discuss the matter of these workers. The national union has elected to use that day to host marches across the country to send a clear message to the department that the employment on a permanent basis of these workers is long overdue and that it must take place with immediate effect.
These workers have served our country with dedication and commitment throughout the years. They have been working in the scotching sun, rainy weather and even on cold days with no uniforms and working tools to provide healthcare especially to the elderly, disabled people and children who cannot access clinics and hospitals.
With the coronavirus infection numbers soaring again these workers will be called on again to assist the most vulnerable population of our society. They will be expect to continue with the duty of screening, testing, treating and disseminating information to communities. The government cannot continue to exploit these workers without remunerating them decent salaries and not the meagre R3500 they have been subjected to for years.
Mobilisation for the success of these marches are at an advanced stage and we are happy with the enthusiasm shown by our members and workers in sending a clear message to the Department of Health that the exploitation of workers must end with immediate effect. The marches will take place as follows:
- Gauteng province: The march will be in Sedibeng and the assembly point will be next to the Vanderbiljpark Licensing Department from 10H00 delivering the memorandum at 12H30 at the District Office which is based at Johan Hynse Hospital.
- Limpopo province: Alph Makaleng Region assembly point at 11H00 Mokopane Bus Rank and handing over the memorandum at 12H00 at Voortrekker Hospital
Elwels Maponya Region assembling at 11H00 Nkensani Hospital and the memorandum will be handed over at 12H00 at Health Mopani District Office. Kennedy Phalandwa Region assembling at 11H00 Old Parliament Prescient and memorandum will be handed over at 12H00 at Health Vhembe District Office. Mike Tauyatswala Region assembling at 11H00 am Polokwane Hospital Park and handing over at 13H00 at Health Head Office. Peter Nchabeleng Region the assembling will be at 11H00 at Dilokong Hospital and the memorandum will be handed over at 12H00
- Free State Province: Central West and Thabo region, the two regions will assemble at Bophelo house at 10H00 to hand over the memorandum at 12H00. Maluti region assemble at 10H00 at Phutaditshaba Hall and march to the Thabo Mofutsanyane and hand over the memorandum at 12H00. Kopano Region assemble at 10H00 at Boitumelo hospital to hand over the memorandum at 12H00.
- Eastern Cape Province: Max Madlingozi and Yure Mdyogolo Regions shall hold a joint rally at University of Fort Hare Grounds. Assembling at 10H00 where-after they will march to present the Memorandum to the Office of the MEC for Health at Dukumbana Building, Bhisho 13H00. OR Tambo region will assemble at 10H00 at Murray Sports Ground and the memorandum will be handed over at 13H00 at Alfred Nzo District Office. Mathew Goniwe will assemble at 10H00 at Queenstown Ezibeleni Traffic Circle will hand over the memorandum at 12H00 Komani District Hospital. Thabo Moshoeshoe will converge at the Regional Office Parking lot at 10H00 and march to PE Provincial Hospital and handover the memorandum at 13H00. King Sabatha Dalindyebo Region will converge at Savoy Park at 10H00 and will march to the district Office at Botha Sigcawu Building at 13H00
- Kwa-Zulu Natal Province: Bheki Mkhize Region will converge at 10H00 King Cetshwayo District Office and memorandum will be submitted there 12H00. Durban Region the comrades will converge at EThekwini Health District Office at 10H00 and handover the memorandum at 12H00. Harry Gwala Region comrades will converge at NEHAWU Regional Office and march to Natalia (Msunduzi District Office) from 10H00 to 13H00 and hand over the memorandum. Magwaza Maphalala Region will converge at UThukela District (Ladysmith Hospital) where the memorandum will be handed over.
- Mpumalanga Province: Bohlabela and Ehlanzeni Regions will converge at 10H00 at Mbombela Freedom Sq. Government Complex where the memorandum will be handed over at 12H00. Gert Sibande Region will converge at Ermelo DoH District Office and hand over the memorandum at 12H00. Nkangala Region will converge at 10H00 at Pietkoornhoof DOH district Office and hand over the memorandum at 12H00
- Northern Cape Province: Arshall Thembani Dyushu Region will converge and march from Community Hall in Nonzwakzi (De Aar) to De Aar Hospital from 10H00. Ds. Aubrey Beukes Region will march from Progress clinic as the starting point and deliver the memorandum Dr. Harry Surtie at 12H00. John Taolo Gaetsewe Region starting point will be Mothibistad Garage to Kagisho Health District Office by 12H00. Frances Baard Region will march from the City Hall (Kimberley) to the Provincial Office of the MEC of Health
- North West Province: The province will have a provincial march that will commence at Montshiwa Stadium and proceed to Provincial Treasury, Health and Premiers Office. The comrades will converge at 10H00 and the memorandums will be handed over between 12H00 and 13H30
- Western Cape Province: The province will have a provincial march in Cape Town and comrades will march to the Department of Health Head Office in the province. The memorandum will be handed to the MEC at 13H00.
Memorandum of demands will be delivered in all the marches across the country and government will be given 7 days to accede to our demands. Failure to respond positively to our demands will leave us with no option but to intensify the strike and render the system ungovernable. Our memorandum will be making the following demands:
- The permanent employment of all Community Healthcare Workers across all 9 Provinces on salary level 3 with full employment benefits that are similar to government employees whose conditions of service fall under the Public Service Act with immediate effect.
- The finalisation of the Standard Operational Procedure for the recruitment, selection, appointment, placement, remuneration, skills development, dispute resolution, occupational health and safety processes, and absorption in the health system for CHWs and subsequent process that may follow in line with policy framework and strategy for ward based outreach teams
- Immediately discontinuation of the employment and or payment of CHWs stipends through Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs). This includes Western Cape Province which has continuously disregarded the implementation of PHSDSBC Resolution 1 of 2018.
- All CHWs that are already in the system and are illegible for permanent appointment, without grade 12 qualifications must not be eliminated but should be taken through the Department of Health process that recognises prior experience and prior learning to assess basic skills required to perform their work
- Provision of sufficient uniform for all Community Health Workers which must include, but not limited to, 3 T-shirts. 3 trousers/skirts, 2 pairs of Comfortable shoes, winter jackets, sunshield caps, umbrellas and bag packs per Community Health Worker.
- Government must make provision for a once of payment of a Pro-forma Post Retirement benefits of R60 000 for CHWs who are older than 60 years and those who are eligible for ill health Retirement.
On the march to collect our salary increase from National Treasury
The national union was planning to march to both Parliament and the Union Buildings to collect our salary increase for our members and public servants as a whole and to call for an end to the onslaught on collective bargaining, austerity measures and neoliberal policies by National Treasury including the intended wage freeze. The march will now be led by the Joint Mandating Committee (JMC) which comprises of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) public sector unions and a date for the march will be communicated at a later stage. At the centre of the demands will be the following issues:
- Immediate implementation of clause 3.3 of the PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018
- The impact of Covid-19 and appreciation of the essential service workers who worked throughout the lockdown without receiving a danger allowance or a moral incentive
- The National Treasury document on freezing salary increases for four years.
On the resurgence of the coronavirus
NEHAWU has notice a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 infections and many people needing hospitalisation. As of yesterday, hospitals in the Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape have ran out of beds for patients. The recent surge has put more strain on our members and workers who are overworked because of understaffing, insufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and medicines.
Our fact-finding mission report by our National Office Bearers (NOB’s) laid bare the shortcoming of our healthcare system and pointed out areas that need urgent attention. The report was shared with the National Department of Health and it would be very tragic if many people lose their lives because the department elected to ignore the recommendations made by the report. In this regard, NEHAWU will continue to monitor the health and safety of its members and workers and we will continue to encourage them not to work if they feel that their lives are in danger.
Our already overstretched healthcare system will not survive a second wave. The outbreak of the virus in late March 2020 has already claimed the lives of many frontline workers and a second wave will have a huge knock on our fragile healthcare system. Once more we appeal to our government especially the Department of Health to pay more attention and ensure that our members are safe from contracting the virus.
On the CWU strike at SABC
NEHAWU will continue to support its sister union, the Communication Workers Union (CWU), in their fight against retrenchments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). The 400 job cuts that the SABC is intending to make is not just numbers but breadwinners who are trying to feed their families and to send their children to school. The outbreak of COVID-19 has already led to unimaginable job loses across the economy and we don’t need to add to the already sky high unemployment rate which currently stands at 43.1%.
The SABC must look at other ways of ensuring its sustainability as the route they are choosing will result in the diminishing of the quality of news. SABC radio and TV delivers news in all eleven official languages especially for people in townships and rural areas. If the SABC is committed to being a news leader in the country they have to keep these workers and aggressively collect TV license fees which they have been failing to do for years.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org