Nehawu said the fight was aimed at protecting collective bargaining and respect of agreements reached with unions.
THE NATIONAL Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) is going ahead with its planned national strike action on Wednesday which will see thousands of workers embarking on marches throughout the country demanding salary increases and improved protective Covid-19 measures.
Among the key demands made by the union is the full compliance by workplaces with the Occupational and Safety Standards Act (OHS), the centralisation of the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) to curb tender corruption and implementation of salary agreements that the government has failed to effect.
Critics have said the planned march was going to jeopardise the current fight against Covid-19 as thousands of protesters on the streets throughout the country would be against existing regulations.
The national action will include marches to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Parliament in Cape Town and offices of premiers throughout all provinces.
On Monday, Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said the fight was aimed at protecting collective bargaining and respect of agreements reached with unions.
“For us this represents a pushback against the onslaught of employers who renege on implementing binding agreements. This campaign is a do or die for us and we are not prepared to lose the fight,” he said.
Cosatu, SACP, the Young Communist League of SA as well as student formations Sasco, Cosas, and the SA Union of Students have all thrown their weight behind the national action.
Saphetha said the strike action was also aimed at zooming into the Covid-19 tender corruption, which he said has contributed to the death of frontline workers, adding that Nehawu would order its members to down tools as soon as next week if the government fails to implement their demands.
“The outbreak of the Coronavirus has given birth to a new breed of tenderpreneurs called Covidpreneurs who have used the opportunity to loot state resources meant to procure PPEs for frontline workers. Workers are losing their lives on a daily basis because of substandard PPEs that expose them to the virus,” Saphetha said.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the federation and its unions had warned the government from the onset that it was opening a minefield for corruption by allowing middlemen to participate in the procurement of PPEs.
“We also warned the government that there is danger of getting poor quality PPEs. We also warned about the Treasury Note that it was opening a gap that people are going to abuse and be able to charge the highest fee,” Ntshalintshali said.
Ntshalinsthali said Cosatu was fully behind its biggest affiliate, and accused the government of having ill-treated health workers despite their deaths in the fight against the pandemic.
“There are workers in this health sector that have been dismissed, and there are workers who are facing suspension and charges in their attempts to be working safely,” he said.
While the government has repeatedly indicated that its fiscus would not allow it to increase salaries of public servants during the pandemic, Ntshalintshali said Nehawu was within its rights to defend collective agreements which the government was disrespecting.
“We think this is an attack on collective bargaining. It is an attack to the social dialogue and an attack to whatever the trade union stands for. If a trade union cannot defend its members in getting increases agreed upon, what are unions for if they cannot protect agreements?” he said.