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Rehabilitation staff feel violated during body searches

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Staff at the Northern Cape Substance Abuse and Treatment Centre did not enter the building on Friday as they are refusing to be body searched. Picture supplied

Body searching is stipulated as a requirement in their contracts and it has been implemented since the centre opened two years ago – Gamiem Abrahams.

STAFF at the Northern Cape Substance Abuse and Treatment Centre did not enter the building on Friday as they are refusing to be body searched.

They stated that they were searched in an inappropriate manner where their private parts were touched “indecently“.

“They must rather make use of hand held scanners or an X-ray machine instead of violating our personal space. Only senior managers and caregivers went into the premises while general workers including cleaning, catering, laundry and administrative staff waited outside the building. We were locked outside because we refused to be body searched. Staff and visitors should not be subjected to this treatment. Who are expected to search LGBTQI persons? Even if someone looks like a woman/man, they may not identify as being one.”

Employees believed that the care of patients would be compromised if they were not at their posts.

“The caregivers have their own duties to perform and there are about 20 patients who currently need to be taken care of.”

Public Servants Association provincial manager Steve Ledibane added that they had requested the centre to provide them with the policy and standard operating procedures regarding body frisking.

“We had a meeting with the employer last year but still not have not been provided with the relevant documents. As far as we are concerned, no such policy exists in the employment contracts. We suggested that they make use of technology or sniffer dogs from correctional services or the police instead.”

He added that there were a number of staff and patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 where the centre had to be closed last year.

“Body searching is not in line with social distancing as there is close physical contact where the dignity of the person is not respected. Certain individuals are permitted to take their keys and cellphones into the centre while others are not. Many staff members are parents who need to be contacted in the event of an emergency.”

Ledibane pointed out that staff were at work and should be entitled to payment.

“Employees want to work but are being denied access as they do not want to be body searched. We advised our members that they have a right not to enter a workplace that is potentially hazardous. If admitted users are not receiving proper care, they may become agitated where staff may be exposed to a hostile working environment.”

Spokesperson for the Department of Social Development Gamiem Abrahams indicated that it was standard practice for staff employed at a rehabilitation facility to be body searched.

“This is done to prevent the entry of contraband substances such as drugs into the centre. An X-ray machine and metal detectors are not able to screen for persons who are carrying drugs into the premises. Body searching is stipulated as a requirement in their contracts and it has been implemented since the centre opened two years ago.”

He added that labour relations was dealing with the matter internally.

“Private security search staff and it does not amount to any invasion of their privacy. Staff chose to leave after they refused to be body searched, they were not denied access to their workplace. If they continue to abscond from their duties, disciplinary action will follow.”

Abrahams indicated that there were no disruptions to the provision of services.

“Most of the employees who did not attend to their duties are gardeners, kitchen, cleaning staff and one social worker. Therapeutic services are continuing and there is a replacement social worker to assist. Meals are provided as normal. ”

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