Trade unions representing employees of the Limpopo Department of Health, namely DENOSA, NEHAWU, HOSPERSA, PSA, SAEPU, NPSWU and SAMATU have served the employer with notice to embark on pickets and ultimately a strike action on the 08th March 2021. This is in response to the arrogant unilateral imposition of changes to terms and conditions of service by Department of Health through the issuing of Circular 43 of 2020 and Circular 4 of 2021.
Circular 43 of 2020 has put all employees in the Department of Health is same basket and fails to take consideration the contract of employment for various categories of employees. Employees are now categorized as shift workers and expected to work over the weekend and public holidays which contravenes the contract of employment. Employer made this changes without consultation and amendment to their contract of employment.
Workers in Department of Health are not happy with Circular 43 2020 as it contravenes Resolution 01 of 2007, Resolution 01 of 2012 and Basic Conditions of Employment Act No 75 of 1997. These Circular changes the working hours of employees which is contrary to labour laws. We have employees whose contract of employment stipulates that their hours is 07h00 to 16h30 ,Monday to Friday. But now the employer forces them to work 7 days a week including weekends, public holidays including night duty. e.g. some nurses, Managers, Doctors and Other Allied Health professionals.
On the issue of Overtime ,the Basic Conditions of Employment Act clearly stipulate that overtime is by agreement between employer and employee . Overtime is an employer’s prerogative and informed service need and shortage of staff.
Employees never demands or force to work overtime. They are requested by the same employer to report on duty especially during their rest times. These employees sacrifice their family times to assist the department to provide services .It is really shocking for the Head Of Department of Health, Dr TF Mhlongo to attack healthcare workers in public and label them as looters.
These employees sacrifice their family times to assist the department to provide services to our community due serious shortage of staff. The department of health fails to fill vacancies left by employees who went on pension, resigned and those who lost their lives. Shortage of staff forces many healthcare workers to perform duties outside their contract of employment where nurse end up working as cleaners and porters.
Employees are happy to work 40 hours a week in accordance with their contract of employment. What make employees angry is that employer introduced and impose a new duty roster which fails to take into consideration the service coverage and social circumstances of employees without consultation as per Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LRA)
As organised labour we referred a dispute per Section 64(4) of the LRA to the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council (PHSDSBC) on change to terms and conditions of employment demanding that employer should stop implementation and the matter was conciliated on the 07 December 2020. During conciliation, the dispute remained unresolved and the Commissioner issued a Certificate of non-resolution which allows employees to go on a protected strike.
It should be put on record that organised labour attempted on several occasions to engage the Department of Health requesting that Circular 43 of 2020 be suspended pending consultation process as outlined by LRA. The attitude of the employer has always been to ignore or undermined organised labour by displaying arrogant attitude in all meetings where unions were making attempts to resolve the impasse without compromising service delivery.
As organized labour we have lost patience after exhausting all available avenues due to the arrogant attitude displayed by the Department of Health in all the meetings. To make matters worse ,the HOD issued Circular 04 of 2021 which instructs all managers in the hospitals and clinics to implement the new duty roster which changes the terms and conditions of employees and compromises patient care.
In the latest attempt to resolve the matter, organised labour requested the employer to postpone implementation of Circular 43 of 2020 and Circular 4 of 2021 to allow time for consultation. Unfortunately, the Department of Health made it clear that they are proceeding with implementation with effect from the 1st March 2021.
On the 26th February 2021 with a mandate from our members, organised labour issued the Department of Health with a notice of intention to strike. In terms of the notice health care workers vowed to shut down services in all 43 hospitals, more than 400 clinics and EMS Stations in the province from the 08 March 2021.
Employees have started lunch time picketing in various workplaces from Monday, 1st March 2021 in preparation of total shutdown of services from the 8th March 2021.
Health care workers are demanding the unconditional withdrawal of both Circular 43 of 2020 and Circular 04 of 2021 and for employer to start consultation with organised labour on the proposed changes.
We warn that healthcare services will be severely affected in all hospitals and clinics and thousands of poor community members will be affected if Head of Department, Dr TF Mhlongo and her Exco do not swallow their pride and withdraw Circular 43 of 2020 and Circular 04 of 2021 with immediate effect.
All the trade unions and members stand united and reject Circular 43 and 04 with the contempt they deserve.
Issued by the following unions:
NEHAWU Provincial Secretary, Jacob Adams – 082 558 5966
DENOSA Provincial Secretary, Jacob Molepo – 072 576 4979
SAMATU Provincial Coordinator, Dr Elliot Motloung – 083 600 8486
SAEPU Kgaladi Makuwa, 076 478 1064
PSA Provincial Manager, John Teffo – 079 513 9856
HOSPERSA Provincial Chairperson, Bongani Ngwenya – 079 671 3103
NPSWU Provincial Secretary, Risimati Chabalala – 066 304 4878