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Community health workers threaten to strike over salaries

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Nupsaw and Saftu are demanding R10,500 salaries for community health-care workers as well as permanent absorption, failing which they are considering embarking on mass action over the festive season.

File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

THE NATIONAL Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) are demanding R10,500 salaries for community health-care workers (CHWs) as well as permanent absorption, failing which they are considering embarking on mass action over the festive season.

Saftu trainer and Nupsaw organiser in the Northern Cape, Thapelo Thole pointed out that despite being allocated Persal numbers, the CHWs were not awarded any increases while civil servants received a backdated three percent increase.

“The former minister of health, Aaron Motsolaedi, in November 2018 agreed to permanently absorb CHWs and provide salaries of R9,500 where, along with the three percent increase, CHWs would now be entitled to R10,500 per month.”

Thole indicated that CHWs in the Northern Cape were only receiving stipends of R4,058.

He stated that the Northern Cape was lagging behind other provinces, with an agreement signed for CHWs residing in Gauteng in 2020 seeing them entitled to salaries of R8,544.50, pension, medical aid and housing allowances.

“CHWs do not have bonuses, unemployment insurance fund or pension benefits, no uniform allowances or personal protective equipment and still fall under the employment of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). How can NGO employees have a Persal number?”

Thole added that since writing to the Department of Health seeking a meeting, they had not received any response.

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo said the matter was being discussed at the national bargaining chamber.

“All the labour unions are engaging government at a national level on this matter. The collective bargaining processes are to be followed and concluded to have an amicable decision that can be implemented nationwide. This would also include monetary supplements from Treasury given the limited conditions of employment budgets for the permanent workforce,” said Mxekezo.

She pointed out that employees who were registered on the Persal database did not imply that they were permanently employed.

“The use of the Persal system in this instance is to facilitate an easy, smooth and timeous payment to those that render services. The fact that one is being paid through Persal does not ‘entitle’ one to have added benefits. The stipulations in the conditions of services when an individual is employed will determine and dictate whether such an individual qualifies for such benefits.”

She added that the conditions of service were determined by workers’ contracts.

“The Province will be guided by the outcome of those discussions at national level after they have been finalised,” Mxekezo concluded.

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