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Durban - The trade union representing McCord Hospital workers has set the ball rolling to interdict the hospital board from retrenching workers after an announcement that the hospital would close on Wednesday.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) - through its lawyers - sent a letter of demand to the board on Wednesday in which it threatened to go to court if certain undertakings were not made before 10am on Thursday.
In the letter, a copy of which the Daily News has in its possession, the union says:
* The conduct of the hospital board is malicious and in bad faith;
* The board held the Department of Health to ransom by asking for an “inflated price” for the hospital;
* The board had used workers as sacrificial lambs; and
* The decision to close the hospital had not been communicated to the union.
Nehawu believes its members working at McCord cannot be legally retrenched because the hospital has not complied fully with the requirements of section 189/189A of the Labour Relations Act.
“Our client demands an undertaking from yourself that our client’s members will not be retrenched or dismissed without section 189 process being followed to the letter,” reads the letter.
The union threatened to go to court on Thursday at 10am if no such undertaking was received from the board.
It is also demanding that an undertaking be made that workers could continue to report for duty until the hospital has complied fully with the relevant sections of the act.
KwaZulu-Natal Nehawu secretary Zola Saphetha explained that the union felt the hospital could not retrench workers under section 189 of the act.
“This section means the employer has to be transparent and demonstrate financial challenges which make it necessary to retrench.
“There should be no other option… but in this case there was another option as the Department of Health was willing to rescue the hospital.”
Saphetha and Dr Jay Mannie, McCord Hospital’s medical manager and staff member of 27 years, addressed the hospital staff, patients and community members outside the hospital on Thursday morning.
Saphetha said “enough is enough” and called on the board not to be selfish, but to think about the staff.
“Professor (Paulus) Zulu (chairman of the board) is a professor but he is also a member of society,” said Saphetha, commenting on the fact that the community would be losing a valuable medical facility.
He said they were not insisting that McCord had to be sold to the Department of Health (DoH), but that closure was not an option.
Mannie, speaking on behalf of the staff at McCord Hospital, said they had decided to break their silence on the closure of the hospital which they were vehemently against.
He said an agreement between the board, department and staff ensured no press statement would be issued without consultation; however, they had now decided to give their side.
“We are opposed to the board’s decision and are in favour of the department taking over the hospital 100 percent,” he said.
Mannie called on all interested parties to attend a meeting at 9am outside the hospital tomorrow, where a petition for a vote of no confidence against the board would be circulated.
Zulu said he had not yet received the letter this morning but had been informed about it.
Talking to the Daily News yesterday, Zulu refused to comment on allegations that the hospital had not followed all the proper processes in retrenching the workers, as stipulated in the Labour Relations Act.
Zulu said the matter was sub judice because Nehawu had already indicated its intention to interdict the hospital.
All he would add was that retrenchment processes had started in January.
The union said the fact that the board had already decided to close the hospital meant a decision “unlawfully and unfairly to retrench” workers had also been made. Talks over the possible purchase of the hospital by the Department of Health broke down as the two parties failed to reach consensus on two main points.
One of those was that the board had refused to sell the hospital in its entirety.
The department also objected to a demand by the board that a liability litigation contingency fund - to guard against any possible litigation against board members in the next 21 years - would be kept by the board and not in the government purse.
The department has indicated it is still willing to purchase the hospital.