Hospital hygiene a worry amid strike

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About 3 000 cleaners from the public and private sector took to the streets, marching from Bothas Park to the Durban City Hall to deliver their memorandum of grievances. Photo: Jacques Naude

Durban - A strike by disgruntled cleaners from the public and private sector could compromise health conditions at government hospitals and clinics in KwaZulu-Natal.

The cleaners downed tools after failed wage negotiations with employers earlier this week.

KZN Department of Health spokesman, Desmond Motha, said the strike would affect public hospitals and clinics.

Cleanliness and infection control had to be observed in a health care setting, Motha said.

“The department will definitely intervene should the disruptions continue. We are paying the service providers. We expect them to adhere to the prescripts of the Department of Labour when paying their employees,” Motha said.

Yesterday, about 3 000 cleaners marched from Botha’s Park to the Durban City Hall. The KZN workers are calling for the same benefits and wages as other cleaners in the country.

The workers belong to three unions - the National General Workers Union (Nagewu), Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) and the SA and Allied Workers Union (Satawu).

Nagewu secretary in KZN, Joyce Mhlongo, said workers would not return to work until their demands had been met. Workers were “sick and tired” of non-complying employers.

The National Contract Cleaners Association (NCCA) had been in negotiations with unions since September last year. Negotiations deadlocked earlier this month resulting in the provincial strike.

Workers demand a R2.57 increase an hour; to work an eight-hour day as opposed to a four-hour day with a compulsory three-hour lunch break.

“Workers in the rest of the country get an hour’s lunch as prescribed by the Department of Labour. Those three hours are unpaid and a waste to workers who already earn a little money,” said Mhlongo.

Cleaners in KZN earn R11.92 an hour. They are demanding R14.49 an hour this year and R16.66 next year.

They are calling for their salaries to be equal to other cleaners in the country, who earn R16.66 an hour.

Workers are also demanding a grading system and job evaluation. “Those working at hospitals are at risk. They cannot earn the same as an office cleaner. Some office cleaners are required to clean windows in high buildings. This places them at risk,” said Mhlongo.

Xolani Dube an organiser with Nagewu said workers also demanded that their end of year bonus be free of “terms and conditions” attached to it.

“If a worker misses a day of work in a month, wages for that month are deducted from their bonus. Workers earn so little. They cannot even afford to go to a private doctor.”

KZN NCCA vice-chairman, Alan Gibb, said a second round of negotiations would be held on Tuesday with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

Netcare chief executive Dr Richard Friedland could not be reached for comment. Netcare and other private companies are affected by the strike.

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