29/11/2007 ***Sunday Tribune*** National Health Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang visited Prince Mshiyeni Hospital after five babies died of klebsiella at the hospital. PICTURE: SANDILE NDLOVU

Durban - Patients at the Prince Mshiyeni Hospital in uMlazi could go hungry as contracted catering staff embark on strike action today.

About 100 striking employees of catering contractor, Fedics, toyi-toyied outside the gates of the hospital, leaving a skeleton staff to cook and deliver food to patients in the 1 200-bed regional hospital.

This came as wage negotiations before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) continued.

Representing the workers, KwaZulu-Natal organiser for the National General Workers Union (Nagewu), Bheki Ntshangase, said negotiations had deadlocked last year when the employer failed to meet the 9.5 percent wage increase demand.

He said at one time they had offered to workers 0.1 percent on sectoral determination which amounted to R2.50.

The offer has since been revised to R210, which Ntshangase said was still below the 9 percent workers demand.

Mshiyeni spokeswoman, Nonkululeko Ngcobo, said Fedics employees were only part of the kitchen staff, so the hospital’s directly-employed staff would continue with catering services.

Fedics spokesman, Royce van der Zwan, said they were working with the hospital management to “manage the disturbance”.

“We want to reassure patients that we are thinking of them first in every decision we make and will take every possible action and use all resources available to ensure no disruption to services.”

He said the company was also working in good faith towards an agreement on the increment with Negawu at the CCMA.

Daily News