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Nehawu puts govt on notice

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The union staged a day of action across all nine provinces on Thursday.

Nehawu in Kimberley marched to the office of Northern Cape Premier, Dr Zamani Saul. Picture: Danie van der Lith
Nehawu in Kimberley marched to the office of Northern Cape Premier, Dr Zamani Saul. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE NATIONAL Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has vowed to withdraw all labour in all sectors on September 10 should its demands, stipulated in a memorandum handed over during the union’s National Day of Action, not be met.

The union staged a day of action across all nine provinces on Thursday, calling for the provision of sufficient and quality personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers as well as the absorption of temporary employees in some government institutions.

Nehawu in Kimberley marched to the office of Northern Cape Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, to hand over a memorandum detailing its grievances and demands.

The provincial chairperson of Nehawu, Jacques Cupido, said the union has discovered that the rights of some employees in the provincial health sector were grossly violated and others faced intimidation from their employer.

Cupido, in his address to members, called on government to give urgent attention to filling vacant general positions, the same urgent attention as that given for executive positions.

“We call on the department to fill all vacant posts. We have discovered that in a hospital in Postmasburg there was only one person working in the laundry. The nurses who were working night shift were also expected to work in the laundry room. That is super exploitation.

“We are always informed that there are processes to be followed when it comes to the appointing of people, however, the same is not said when it comes to the appointment of directors,” Cupido said.

He also called on the Health Department to absorb community health care workers permanently.

“We have been calling for community-based health care workers to be appointed permanently in the department. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the collapsing health care system in this country.

“Community-based health care workers are the ones who go to the homes of people and ensure that they have access to medical services and medication. We will bring the health sector to its knees if it fails to adhere to our pleas.

“We will pull the services of all our nurses, cleaners and porters. Only the patients will remain in the hospitals. We have been disciplined and afforded the department enough time to comply,” Cupido said.

The provincial secretary of the union, Steffen Cornelius, handed the memorandum over to Saul.

Cornelius said the failure of government to comply with occupational health and safety legislation and regulation has resulted in some front-line workers succumbing to Covid-19.

“We are demonstrating at a time when we are mourning the needless deaths of more than 240 health care workers. There is no justification for government’s failure to comply with occupational health and safety legislation and regulations that seek to protect workers, especially those in the front line of combating this endemic.

“Our members and workers are subjected to savage attacks through an increasing rate of exploitation, collective bargaining and the right to strike as well as the downward variation of their working conditions by both the state and the private sector.”

Cornelius said the union demands that government implement the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.

“We demand the full compliance of the OHS Act at all workplaces to ensure that risk assessments and infection control and prevention measures are in place. Infected workers must return to work only once they have completed the mandatory 10-day self-isolation and after they have undergone a medical evaluation confirming fitness to work.”

The union also called on the Department of Health to issue a circular, explicitly prohibiting institutional managers from preventing workers from going into quarantine if they believe they have been exposed.

Cornelius said the union also called for the compensation of front-line workers.

Saul accepted the memorandum and committed to give the matter the attention it required.