Health workers gear up for Limpopo strike
Pretoria - The Limpopo strike action by health workers at hospitals across the province is set to continue.
Yesterday, about 50 health workers gathered outside the Pietersburg hospital, picketing and drumming up support for the massive strike action scheduled to start on Monday.
They are striking after the Limpopo Department of Health imposed Circular 43 of 2020 that forces workers to work extra shifts.
Workers have vowed to go on with the strike despite the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Limpopo and some health practitioners not supporting the action.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, the SAHRC head in the province, Victor Mavhidula, said the Chapter 9 institution was concerned about the looming strike and had written a letter to both the province's health department and the unions, pleading with them to reconsider the impact it would have on hospitals if the strike were to go on.
Mavhidula said: “From the human rights perspective we should not underestimate the damage that will be caused by this strike action. In some instances you will find that we would have to close some hospitals during this time of Covid-19 because of this strike. So we are asking the two parties to sit down and come up with a solution about this matter.”
Mavhidula added that Cosatu affiliates involved in the strike had indicated that they would be willing to sit down with the department, but the department had not yet responded.
A dentist, who did not want to be named for fear of being victimised, from Letaba hospital in Tzaneen, said he and some health practitioners, especially pharmacists, optometrists and radiographers, were not in support of the strike because they had not received overtime long ago, and the unions did not help them.
He said: “We are part of these unions but when we are in trouble they don’t help us.
“Now it has hit home for those who are the leaders and are asking us to down tools as well because they are affected.
“For us, it will be a working day on Monday.”
National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union provincial secretary Jacob Adams conceded that in any decision of a strike there would be those who were for and those who were against.
“We are now at the tail end of consulting or balloting to see who is for the strike and who is not.
“Everywhere there are legal processes to follow and so we are also doing just that,” said Adams.
Provincial chairperson for Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa Monyaki Lesiba said they welcomed any type of intervention because a strike was the absolute last resort.
“Any type of intervention that will restore the dignity of the workers is welcome, because it would attempt to restore service delivery.”
The unions said they were due to meet with the MEC of health Dr Phophi Ramathuba yesterday evening.
Department of Health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana confirmed that the department had received the letter from the SAHRC.
“We have received a letter indicating that the commission received a complaint of an impending strike which they believe if it indeed happens, might have a negative impact on the human rights of community members.
“We are responding to that letter.
“However, on the issue of mediations, our view is that currently the issues of contention are still residing with the employer and employee.
“As such processes that are followed in addressing the challenge are governed by territorial laws such as labour relations prescriptions which give clear directions on how disagreements of these nature should be handled.
“Up to so far engagements are still ongoing between labour unions and the department and we believe there is still room for the parties to find each other and avert the mooted strike by the unions,” Shikwambana said.