More than 100 community health workers arrested in Bloemfontein must be released and charges against them dropped, Cosatu said on Thursday.
“Community health workers are a critical component of public health care, but are exploited by the failure to respect their rights as workers,” said Congress of SA Trade Unions' spokesman Patrick Craven.
He said community health workers must be formally brought into the health care system as health department employees, and unionised.
The Treatment Action Campaign said more than 100 community health workers were arrested in Bloemfontein on Thursday morning for staging a sit-in at the health department.
The workers and TAC members, mostly older women, took part in a vigil in an attempt to “speak out against the failings in and collapse of the Free State health system”, TAC general secretary Anele Yawa said.
The vigil was staged after health workers failed to secure a meeting with health MEC Benny Malakoane.
Yawa said they had previously demanded a meeting with Malakoane following a sit-in on June 27. She said the vigil was part of a campaign to remove Malakoane from his position.
The TAC had sent a request to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe for a meeting to demand intervention in the Free State's “collapsing” health department.
Community health workers have been protesting against the termination of their contracts and demanding they be paid.
TAC Free State chairman Sello Mokhalipi confirmed the salary dispute was one of the reasons for the sit-in.
He said health care workers, who were currently getting paid R1 400 a month, wanted R3 500 after deductions.
“They should be getting benefits just like other health care workers,” he said.
He said community health workers were trained in basic health care skills, provided home-based care, counselling to patients, and helped them take their medication.
“They specialise in home-based care but are trained in the basics of health care,” Mokhalipi said. - Sapa