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Social workers' strike might delay grants

Gauteng
Johannesburg – Hundreds of NGOs that rely on government funding to operate face an uncertain future with reports that grants might be paid late due to the ongoing social workers’ strike.

Over the past five weeks, Nehawu staff have been on strike demanding better salaries.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between NGOs and the government have been delayed due to the striking government workers, meaning that no funds can be delivered.

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Over the past five weeks, Nehawu staff have been on strike demanding better salaries. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/Independent Media

The first financial year payments for many of these NGOs was already due early this month, but now seems unlikely to be delivered.

The NGOs provide critical care to the aged, children and people with disabilities, and use government funding for operational costs and staff salaries.

The Social Development Department at the weekend said it had been inundated with complaints over such SLAs.

Since the strike started, a child has died at a centre in Soweto as they were allegedly unable to provide medical care due to the strike.

Les Sanabria, deputy chairperson of the Greater Johannesburg Social Services Development Forum, said the situation had become desperate as many organisations faced uncertain futures.

“All NGOs need to sign a SLAs with the department. The strike carries on, no SLAs have been signed and, definitely, no payments will be made,” he said.

Sanabria said that during a meeting in Turffontein two weeks ago, Gauteng MEC for Social Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza had apologised, saying the department would not get subsidies to organisations on time for the first tranch – or portion.

“That tranch should cover April, May and June. We are in the new financial year and we are expecting to receive the money around the 13th (April),” said Sanabria.

“Old people are going to die because they don’t have food. Monies will be paid late because there’s a strike."

“The MEC couldn’t indicate when the monies could be paid because Nehawu is still on strike and we don’t know until when. It’s been five weeks already.”

Last weekend, Mayathula-Khoza threatened legal and criminal proceedings against workers as the national social worker’s strike turned violent.

Department spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba said on Monday that the department was in panic mode but was hoping the impasse would be resolved soon.

“We are extremely worried. We believe it is time now for negotiators from both sides to find one another."

“While we sympathise with the protesters, their demands are legitimate but it cannot be at all costs,” he said.

The desperate situation, he said, was at the mercy of the negotiations.

He said what worsened the situation was that the strike was happening at the beginning of the financial year and non-striking workers were being attacked.

“Of course there would have been an impact; those that were supposed to enter into new Service Level Agreements if their SLAs were to expire,” Xaba said.

“As a department, we are worried. We are doing everything we can to put contingency plans in place. We are also worried that the strike has become too violent.”

Nehawu general secretary Bereng Soke said the intention of the strike was to affect services.

“That’s the intention of strikes. The intention of a strike is to affect services so the employer can present what would be acceptable.

“All that we know is that our members are on strike and services will be affected. It’s up to those NGOs to speak to the department to resolve any outstanding issues,” Soke said.

He said the union was meeting the department on Tuesday and was hopeful the matter would be resolved.

The Star

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