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Care workers advised to sign contracts or ’lose livelihoods’

Community health workers have been advised to sign 12-month contracts or risk losing their livelihoods. Picture: Soraya Crowie

The Northern Cape Department of Health is still in discussions regarding the payment of community health-care workers.

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health is still in discussions regarding the payment of community health-care workers (CHWs).

The department obtained an interim interdict against CHWs after clinics and health facilities were shut down.

The CHWs are demanding that they be permanently absorbed by the department. They claim that they were forced to sign 12-month contracts by November 5 or face having their employment terminated.

Care workers were prevented from claiming social grants after the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) suspended public servants’ grants.

The CHWs said that they had to re-register with Sassa to resume payment of their social and child grants.

South African Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (Salipswu) provincial organiser Thapelo Thole added that CHWs needed to be paid in line with minimum wage regulations, and pointed out that they only received stipends of R3,633 per month.

“In all other provinces, CHWs are paid a minimum wage of R3,999, while this regulation is not being implemented in the Northern Cape,” said Thole.

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo said on Thursday that all matters pertaining to the CHWs were still under negotiation and discussion at the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council.

“The national Department of Health, with the national office-bearers of organised labour, are deliberating on the matters that will culminate into the coherent strategy for the management of CHWs,” said Mxekezo.

“In pursuit of these resolutions, and attempts to provide stability in the management of CHWs, the parties issued resolutions that would define conditions governing the contracting of the community health workers by provinces.”

Mxekezo stated that the department had one standardised contract for all CHWs who were paid a stipend of R3,633.

“A 4.5 percent increase was implemented as from March 1, bringing the stipend to R3,796.49. The department has commenced with the process to implement this.”

Mxekezo added that CHWs were not permanently appointed. “Letters claiming permanent employment are, therefore, false.

“The persal numbers that were assigned do not aim to disqualify the CHWs from receiving social grants but were rather aimed to provide adequate protection for the remuneration/stipend. Sassa should provide this clarity as they are responsible for the conditions of the social grant eligibility.”

She added that all employees, regardless of whether they were employed on a permanent or temporary basis, were required to sign a contract in order to receive remuneration.

“These contracts will be concluded by the end of November. Refusal to sign the contract is tantamount to refusing the relationship and renders the payment of the stipend unjustifiable.”

Mxekezo advised CHWs to sign their contracts to prevent them from losing their stipends and subsistence allowances.

“Refusal to sign the contracts will result in them losing their livelihoods. By signing, CHWs will assist the department to comply with relevant legislation.”

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