Community health workers to wait another year for permanent employment
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Cape Town - Thousands of community health workers at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 may have to wait for another year before being absorbed as the government wants the agreement to consider permanently employing them extended.
Labour parties to the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council (PHSDSBC) – the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, the Democratic Nurses Organisation of SA, the Public Servants Association (PSA) and the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA – are considering the government’s offer to extend the deal reached in 2018.
In terms of the deal, the unions and the government agreed to “ensure the development of standard operational procedure for the recruitment, selection, appointment, placement, skills development, dispute resolution, occupational heath and safety procedures and absorption in the health system for community health workers and subsequent process that may follow in line with policy framework and strategy for ward-based outreach teams”.
However, the agreement had a clause making provision for the resolution to be extended for two consecutive terms.
The agreement was extended in 2019 and last year and the government wants another 12-months extension to extend the lifespan again to allow parties to conclude outstanding matters.
At its special meeting on Monday, the PHSDSBC noted that the 2020 extension has lapsed but that the provision of the clause has not yet finalised on all issues requiring consultation and engagement.
The bargaining council also reminded the parties that the provisions of the clause have not yet been realised.
”The special council meeting held on July 19 2021 resolved that resolution 2 of 2020 should be extended by a further twelve (12) months,” reads the draft agreement.
If accepted the agreement will bind the national and provincial health departments, the four trade unions and their members as well as non-unionised community health workers who fall within the registered scope of the PHSDSBC.
According to the PSA, if the draft agreement enjoys majority support, its lifespan will be extended until July 10, 2022, which will mean the estimated 60 000 community health workers will be employed for another 12 months while their representatives try to resolve their permanent employment.
“A mandate is requested from community health workers on whether to accept or reject the extension of lifespan of the agreement,” the union indicated.
Community health workers are paid a non-service remuneration of R3 500 a month if they have completed matric or have experience and can benefit from recognition of prior learning.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March last year, community health workers have been dispatched to communities to distribute educational materials, screen people for the deadly disease and trace the contacts of those who have tested positive.