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LIMPOPO’s emergency medical personnel are threatening to strike because their overtime allowances have not been paid.
Some claim the Limpopo Health Department owes them more than R30 000 in overtime allowances backdated to October last year.
At the weekend, when traffic volumes were unusually high because of an annual Zion Christian Church pilgrimage, several emergency personnel refused to be on compulsory standby on the major roads leading to Moria, according to sources.
“We will not do standby until they pay us,” said a source in the Capricorn district, which includes Polokwane. She asked not to be named for fear of possible reprisals.
If these essential-services workers go on strike, this would affect mainly the poor in villages and townships who rely entirely on public health care. Limpopo had cash-flow problems last year, which prompted the cabinet to put the financially troubled province under administration in December.
The Health Department is among the five departments that had to be rescued. But now the patience of emergency personnel has dried up.
“The next thing, they will be telling us that they don’t have our records,” said an ambulance attendant in the Mopani district.
Another source was angered by the fact that the department won’t pay them overtime but still expects them to work overtime.
“We work from 7am until 7pm and work for the same hours even when we work night shift. This is slavery,” he said.
Mpho Mpogeng, president of the SA Emergency Personnel Union, which claims to represent 96 percent of about 1 500 emergency personnel in Limpopo, said the department had shown no interest in paying its members.
“We have had several meetings with senior managers, and no one seems to care. Nobody wants to take responsibility,” said Mpogeng.
Department spokeswoman Sne Gumede blamed the emergency personnel for not claiming on time. She said the department also wanted supporting documents before making payments.
“We need approval that you were authorised to work overtime. It needs to be signed by the supervisor. Attach a work schedule as well and the list of call-ups that you attended to,” said Gumede.
“The department is aware of their grievances relating to the number of hours they work and other grievances, and thus it has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday, and this matter will be on the agenda,” said Gumede.
But a source in the Capricorn district hit back. “We do all the things they want. It has been almost a year. Those people must just tell you the truth and stop making excuses