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Health unions to fight interdict

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Arguments regarding the conditions of the urgent interim interdict will be heard in the Northern Cape High Court this week, where all the unions are opposing the order

Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

LABOUR unions have been ordered not to kidnap the Northern Cape head of department (HOD) for Health or any other official, after union representatives threatened last month that their members would embark on strike action.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the Hospital Personnel Association of South Africa (Hospersa), the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) and their representatives have been barred from entering any premises belonging to the Northern Cape Department of Health without permission.

Arguments regarding the conditions of the urgent interim interdict will be heard in the Northern Cape High Court this week, where all the unions are opposing the order.

This follows after employees embarked on a go-slow over the festive season to voice their dissatisfaction over critical staff shortages, which have been hampering service delivery, non-payment of overtime, lack of basic resources and unbearable working conditions.

In terms of the interdict, unions as well as union representatives were ordered not to “threaten, kidnap or assault” the HOD for the Department of Health, or any other official or any other employee and may not “instigate any unlawful strike action” or disrupt any services or functions.

The unions believe that the interdict is a violation of workers’ rights, where the conducive working relationship between the employer and union members is being jeopardised.

The unions are also refusing to attend any meetings called by the department until the interdict is withdrawn.

The HOD for the Department of Health, Steven Jonkers, had on December 10 2018 informed all striking professionals in the Frances Baard district that if they absconded from work they were considered to be participating in unprotected industrial action.

They were ordered to immediately return to their duties.

Jonkers, in court papers, indicated that about 46 nursing staff were absent from their work stations on December 11 2018, while patients were being denied health care services.

“This unlawful instigation by the unions could have disastrous consequences in that it could possibly result in the death of seriously-ill patients.”

He added that a management meeting that was convened by the district manager at the Frances Baard district health offices on December 10 2018 was disrupted when the union representatives stormed the premises.

Jonkers stated that they gained unauthorised access to the boardroom, where they warned that all their nursing members in Kimberley, Barkly West, Warrenton and Hartswater would take part in a strike on December 11 2018.

He explained that after leaving the district offices, the union representatives gained unlawful access into the office of the director of human resources at the James Exum building, where they proceeded to disrupt work activities.

“On December 10 the same persons gained unlawful entry into my office and disrupted a meeting that was in progress. I was informed about the intended unlawful labour action that was planned for the following day. As a result, an ultimatum was addressed to all personnel taking part in a proposed unlawful strike.”

Jonkers said that on December 11 the same group unlawfully entered the chief financial officer’s office and prevented senior personnel, including himself, from leaving by blocking the door.

“This amounted to nothing other than unlawful kidnapping of those present in the CFO’s office. Eventually, we were able to leave the office but were once again prevented from leaving the secretary of the CFO’s office. We were reluctantly allowed to leave after being held hostage for a short period of time.”