Western Cape Premier Helen Zille Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town – Disgruntled health-care workers took to the streets and marched to Premier Helen Zille's office to demand safety, improved working conditions and increased wages.

The march, led by the National Public Service Workers Union (NPSWU), included employees of the provincial Health Department, community health-care workers and emergency medical service staff.

The NPSWU’s Sifiso Dlamini said two personnel had been hijacked and robbed of their valuables while responding to a call in Khayelitsha last week. 

The incident was one of many since the start of this year involving violence or threats against EMS personnel responding to call-outs. They were not escorted.

"The department is dispatching employees to red zone areas without making provision for security. When personnel are robbed, they’re never compensated - they’re told it’s part of their duties. If we were to stop the crews from entering any area they fear and don’t want to work in, we’d be told we were sabotaging. We’re here to give the government a chance to show they value the crews.”

Dlamini said there was also an issue where management made employees work 60 hours a week, contrary to basic conditions of employment regulations of 45 hours; 40 hours within public service.

A community health-care worker who asked not to be named said she earned “peanuts”, making it difficult to provide for her four children, and she was struggling to pay off her debts.

“Some people earn a stipend of R3000 a month. Tell me what a family of four or more can do with that money? We have to pay for our children’s fees and other needs like funeral cover. 

"We have qualifications and want to be paid as permanents so we get benefits. The worst thing they did now was to renew our contracts without increases,” she said.

Zille’s spokesperson, Ewald Botha, said they had been notified about the march but she had not been available.

Labour Relations acting director John Barends received the memorandum, which gives officials four to six days to respond. A provincial Health Department spokesperson said they would get back to the employees by the deadline.

Cape Times