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Community workers down tools

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Close to 2 500 Community Development Workers (CDWs) in Kimberley downed tools yesterday after they were not paid their stipends by the Northern Cape Department of Health.

File image Picture: Supplied

CLOSE to 2 500 Community Development Workers (CDWs) in Kimberley downed tools yesterday after they were not paid their stipends by the Northern Cape Department of Health.

According to the workers, their 12-month contract with the Department of Health apparently came to an end in May without their knowledge. The South African Liberating Public Servants Workers Union (Salipswu) said that the workers had expected that they would be absorbed into the department, “as promised”.

The workers have now pointed fingers at the three unions that represented them at the Bargaining Chamber.

Salipswu provincial organiser and SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) district recruitment chairperson Thapelo Thole expressed disappointment with what he labelled the “exploitation and betrayal” of the workers who depended on their union representatives.

“We are aware that our contracts ended at the end of May, and that the engagements between the employer for the workers to be permanently employed, with benefits, were at a mature stage,” said Thole.

“This is a betrayal of those CDWs who registered with the unions. The unions did not even bother to inform the members about their employment status.”

He added that it was pointless for members to continue working because they had already been de-registered from the system.

“How can they work without contracts? Their contracts ended in May and they have no information about whether these will be renewed or when exactly the absorption process will be implemented. If they continue to work, they will first have to be recaptured on the system.

“We won’t allow our members to be exploited.”

Thole stated further that they had engaged with the department on Tuesday and had been promised that the payments would be processed by Thursday (yesterday).

He could not confirm, however, whether any of the 2 450 CDWs had received their payments.

Thole claimed that some members have been exposed to Covid-19 while they were working without any benefits and were threatened with dismissal by nursing sisters.

They demanded that the department provide answers as to who was responsible for hiring and firing.

The Northern Cape Department of Health said in response that the non-payment of CDWs was an error and confirmed that its community health workers would continue to be paid.

Department spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo apologised for the inconvenience the error had caused and said the stipends would be paid by the end of next week.

She did not comment on whether the workers would continue to be paid on a contract basis or whether they would be permanently absorbed by the department, stating that further details would be revealed at a later stage.