Durban - Seventeen forensic pathology service workers have been arrested, the KZN Department of Health confirmed on Monday.
Spokesperson for the department of Health Ncumisa Mafunda confirmed that the 17 were arrested at Fort Napier Medico-Legal Mortuary on Monday afternoon.
“This is part of the enforcement of a court order for contempt of court, which was secured by the department against the staff members,” she said.
The arrests come after failed attempts to persuade the workers to abandon the go-slow which they embarked upon in November.
Mafunda said the department first issued an ultimatum which was followed by an interim order granted by the court, interdicting the workers from participating in an illegal strike.
When the workers failed to abide by that judgment, the Department filed another application against the workers for being in contempt of court.
“All of this happened simultaneously with the roll out of contingency plans to keep services running amid challenging circumstances that were taking a toll on many grieving families,” she said.
On December 4, the court pronounced on the two applications, firstly, granting the final order to interdict workers from embarking on a wild cat strike and secondly, granting another court order against the workers for being in contempt of court.
“The Department then afforded the workers a last opportunity to go back to work, which was also ignored. With the workers failing to return to work and work at optimum level, the Department was left with no option but to return to court to ask the judge to lift the suspension of the order so that laws of dealing with wild cat strikes could be implemented against employees,” Mafunda said.
She said in the meantime, the department is implementing its contingency plan to mitigate the impact of the ongoing go-slow on the completion of autopsies.
“This contingency plan includes sourcing assistance from other arms of the State regarding the completion of autopsies. Further details will be provided in this regard,” Mafunda said.
She added that the department is also doing its best to assist the bereaved families by keeping them informed and providing transport where necessary.
“We want to apologise to the grieving families affected by the go-slow, and will continue to strive to improve the situation,” Mafunda said.
In the meantime, members of the public who wish to enquire about the progress of the autopsies of their loved ones are urged to contact the KZN Health Provincial Operations Centre on 0800 005 133. They will be requested to leave their details, and will be contacted and given an update.