No work, no vaccine, says Thokozani Mhlongo as Limpopo health workers plan to strike
Pretoria - “No work, no vaccine” is the threat issued by the Limpopo Department of Health’s head of department Thokozani Mhlongo, in response to workers planning to strike next week.
Mhlongo threatened to stop the ongoing vaccine roll-out to health workers if unions continued with the planned strike action ‒ scheduled for Monday ‒ over conditions of service.
The unions vowed to take to the streets, bemoaning the department’s refusal to withdraw the unilateral changes to conditions of service, occasioned by the issuing of Circular No: 43 of 2020 and Circular 4 of 2021, which stated the department would not be filling any vacancies yet.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, Democratic Nursing Organisation, Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa, and the Public Service Association, have given a notice to strike at provincial hospitals and clinics next Monday.
Briefing the media yesterday, Mhlongo warned those who would take part in what she called an illegal strike would be risking their chances of getting the much sought after jab.
“At the moment we are running the Johnson and Johnson study campaign, geared towards health care workers. It’s for their own good, and if they decide to go on strike it means they don’t want the vaccine, so I’ll simply close the stations for them not to receive the vaccine,” Mhlongo warned.
The department had means to deal with strikers and the continuation of service delivery, she said.
“Workers who will be on strike might compromise themselves in terms of getting the vaccine because it would be illegal for them to do so.”
She said that the reason the department was not able to meet the demands of the unions to fill vacancies, and therefore ease the burden on health workers, was because it was out of pocket.
“The Limpopo Department of Health currently has a budget of R22.6 billion. It spends R15.7 billion of this on compensation of employees (salaries). This represents just over 70% of total expenditure.
“The acceptable norm is in the region of 60% for a labour-intensive department such as ours. This level of spending on personnel is unacceptable. It leaves the department with only 30% to spend on medical supplies, equipment, medicine, blood, oxygen etc, and we have at times run into difficulties with these items.
“Despite this high spending on staff, there is still gross shortages and high vacancy rates in areas which are critical for the quality of health care service delivery. However, we are unable to fill these vacancies due to budgetary constraints.
“Our Provincial Treasury cannot allow us to continue filling posts when we do not have money,” she said.
Nehawu provincial secretary Jacob Adams said the unions could not respond to questions as they would be having a press briefing of their own.
He said: “Unfortunately I can’t say anything because we have a joint press briefing with the other union tomorrow [today].