COSATU statement on the outcomes of a Special meeting by Public Service unions in KZN

COSATU public service unions in the province of KZN (DENOSA, NEHAWU, PAWUSA, POPCRU, SADTU, SAMA and SAEPU) convened a provincial Joint Mandating Committee meeting to discuss challenges facing essential service employees during the lockdown. They also discussed the government decision to renege from the three-year wage increase agreement.

This meeting took place as South Africa is reported to be standing at 2173 cases of Covid- 19 to date. The Province of KwaZulu Natal is sitting in the third place after Gauteng and Western Cape, at 443. The KZN has reported more fatalities than all other provinces.

Provision of PPE’s: The alarming events at both St Augustine and Chief Albert Luthuli hospitals has reminded us of the urgency of the situation. These two episodes should jolt both public and private health sector leadership into action.

Our unions have been quick to respond to these two episodes and will remain hands-on in working with relevant managers to find immediate and lasting solutions. The health of our members is non-negotiable, and we cannot afford to be complacent even for one second. We, therefore, reiterate our demand for workers to be provided with quality personal protective equipment, including adequate training in the use of these PPEs.Careless and lax attitudes should be dealt with and all complacent senior officials, who are guilty of failing the workers should be disciplined. There must be counselling sessions provided and safe reliable transport for all essential service workers.

Employer unilateralism: We call on the relevant stakeholders to meet and discuss a responsible recovery plan to help reopen St Augustine hospital. South Africa cannot afford to close hospitals for long periods because we already have an overburdened health system. We have noted a series of interventions by the MEC, for Health but we are worried that primary stakeholders like workers have not been properly briefed on these developments that are likely to impact them. This needs to change and fast because there is nothing that will be decided about workers without their inputs.

No to glorified slaves: We have also noted that while other provinces have advertised for all categories on short term contracts, including filling of vacant funded posts; the KZN DOH has asked for volunteers, including students. This is unacceptable and we totally reject it because it will compromise students who are not covered by occupational health and safety, should they contract Covid-19. We make a firm call that the DOH must consider filling vacant posts in the department and stop looking for glorified slaves to deal with a crisis.

Transparency and ethical behaviour: We are witnessing a situation where the money is spent on ridiculous blankets tenders while senior doctors are facing medical liability issues, including needing registration with councils. This leaves a lot to be desired and it talks to the lack of ethics and principles by some in senior management positions.

Safety of EMS: Our Emergency Service workers are amongst the most vulnerable and exposed of all essential employees and they are not properly kitted out. This is very disturbing, and we call for maximum care for Emergency Service workers. They must be protected in through provision of necessary PPEs and trained on handling people contracted with the Covid- 19.

 Protection of the police: We have been engaging with the challenges affecting our police through our union POPRCU. This intervention has assisted in resolving problems of PPEs in the Police service. We, however, want to warn some of the Station Commanders who still refuse to comply with precautionary measures to stop gambling with the lives of our members. We will not hesitate to take decisive legal action against them.

Overcrowding in prisons: COSATU is quite worried to hear about the escalating number of prison warders who are reported to have contracted Coronavirus. We are further worried about overcrowding in our prisons. This poses serious danger to both prisoners and workers. We call on the management of Correctional Services to attend to these matters with immediate effect.

Mortuary and Forensic personnel: Workers in the Forensic or mortuaries also need training and protection. These workers interact with corpses on daily basis and have told us about serious challenges, as far as their wellbeing is concerned. They want their management to train them on safe and proper protocols to do their work in an age of Covid- 19.

School reopening protocols: We also call on the Department of Education to not to relax. The department needs to speedily develop policies and measures as part of the preparation for the reopening of schools.

Proper Consultation: All of this demands a change of attitude from the Office of The Premier and the relevant departments. They need to involve workers and all stakeholders in the processes to combat Covid 19. The days on unilateralism and of “I can do it alone” mentality are over. It is wrong that at this day and age, workers are still demanding proper consultation when their lives are the ones at stake.

Issued by COSATU KZN

For enquiries contact:

Edwin Mkhize

COSATU KZN Provincial Secretary

082 399 7756 or 076 522 8839