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Caregivers escalate demands

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“We are already overworked as if we are professionals. Can you imagine what is going to happen to us if there are less of us employed”

MEMBERS of the SA Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (Salipswu) marched to the Office of the Premier yesterday to escalate their demands for permanent absorption and the payment of bonuses.

According to the workers, their grievances have not been taken seriously for months after they handed over a memorandum to the Northern Cape departments of Social Development (DSD) and Health in 2019.

The members, who marched from Galeshewe yesterday morning, consisted of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers, Community Health Care Workers (CHWs) and DSD caregivers.

They were, however, left disappointed that the Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, could not accept their memorandum as he was in Galeshewe doing site inspections at clinics.

Some Salipswu members then threatened to close down clinics instead of handing the memorandum over to the premier’s adviser, Norman Shushu.

The caregivers are concerned about possible retrenchments as the DSD claims not to have money to pay them the minimum wage of R3 500 a month.

According to them, the wage increase was stipulated by President Cyril Ramahosa in 2018 and the Department of Health has already implemented it for caregivers in its employ. However, those employed by the DSD did not receive the increase, they said.

“We earn R2 000 before deductions. The DSD issued a memorandum stating that we will receive an increase of R36 a month from April, instead of the minimum wage of R3 500 a month. That is an insult. The increase was effective from June 2018 but we did not receive our expected increases.

“We are already overworked as if we are professionals. Can you imagine what is going to happen to us if there are less of us employed,” asked one caregiver, Tshepiso Mosia.

She claimed that the department expected them to work seven days a week and to produce accurate statistics.

Another worker, Victoria Tembo, said some of her colleagues had been serving as caregivers for more than 15 years and the department expected them to be on call 24/7 in cases of emergency.

“The professionals are not treated in this manner at all. They knock off while we are left to work after hours, helping children with homework and house responsibilities,” said Tembo.

The caregivers pointed out that they marched to the DSD in April 2019 but their concerns had still not been dealt with.

Charmaine Mbalula complained that their bonuses were also apparently cut without their consent.

According to her, when they confronted the department they were told that they had to work six hours instead of the normal five hours to qualify for the bonuses.

“Our demand is that we get absorbed because it is clear that there is a shortage of staff at health institutions. Now we don’t get any benefits regardless of how hard we work,” said Mbalula.

She added that they were told by the MEC for Health, Mase Manopole, that their contracts would be reviewed and that they would receive feedback within seven days. “That was back in October – seven months ago.”

The provincial spokesperson for Salipswu, Thapelo Thole, said yesterday that they were giving the Premier’s Office seven days to provide them with feedback.

He said that the union had been engaging with both departments but there had been no progress.

The Office of the Premier did not provide comment by the time of going to print.