File photo: Boxer Ngwenya/ANA Pictures

Johannesburg - Gauteng is hoping to clear a 172 body backlog at its mortuaries following the end of a strike by pathology assistants that caused delays in burials for many families.

Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa on Thursday announced the end of the four-week stand-off that had seen forensic pathology assistants refuse to conduct autopsies.

The immense backlog caused by the strike has resulted in Roodepoort having 20 bodies, Joburg 80 and Germiston 72.

Ramokgopa said: “With the officers back at work, we are confident that over three days these backlogs would have been dealt with.”

The MEC’s announcement was however met half-heartedly by some workers who had been involved in the strike.

A forensic pathology officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Independent Media yesterday that workers were unhappy about the manner their grievances were resolved.

“The way the MEC of Health resolved this issue is not according to the way we were expecting them to deal with our grievances,” said the forensic assistant, adding that they only returned to work because they had been threatened.

“They sent out letters to us, saying they will be dismissing us if we don’t go back to work. We are back at work but we have a lot of bodies that need to be attended to.

"Yesterday afternoon, when I knocked off we had processed approximately 70 bodies,” the forensic pathology officer said.

Another officer, who too requested to remain anonymous, said he was not happy with the MEC’s announcement because her office did not deal with the issue head-on.

He further expressed his disappointment with his union.

“The union stood us up, they decided for us and didn’t ask what we thought about it,” he said.

According to The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union national spokesperson, Khaya Xaba, they will be holding a media briefing today.

Ramokgopa said she wished to meet all of the parties that had been involved in the mortuary strike to iron out any remaining issues.

Ramokgopa also plans to meet the managers of the facilities, Department of Health managers and Forensic Pathology Officers within the next 10 days.

The MEC was visibly relieved the strike was over and that all staff had returned to work.

“We are pleased to announce that 100% of forensic pathology officers have returned to their work station since (Wednesday) morning," she said in a statement.

She confirmed that the department had checked with all the facilities to ensure that all staff went to work on Thursday.

The Star