More deaths as Nehawu set to step up action

Members of trade union Nehawu protested at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Monday demanding a 10% wage increase. Picture: Ntokozo Nxumalo

Members of trade union Nehawu protested at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Monday demanding a 10% wage increase. Picture: Ntokozo Nxumalo

Published Mar 13, 2023

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Johannesburg - More deaths have been reported as healthcare workers affiliated with the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union embark on a second week of their strike.

In a media briefing yesterday, Nehawu announced its plans to intensify the strike as they await a decision by the Labour Appeals Court today on the legality of their demonstration.

The workers are demanding a wage increase of 10%, but the employer is only offering 4.7%.

Last week, Health Minister Joe Phaahla claimed that four people had died as a result of the strike.

Phaahla said they would investigate if indeed the people had died as a result of the strike.

Yesterday, Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said the loss of lives was unfortunate.

Saphetha asked for space to exercise their rights while they awaited the conclusion of the investigation by the state before they could respond as a union.

Phaahla urged healthcare workers to return to work.

At some clinics and hospitals, there were violent incidents with striking workers preventing workers from reporting for duty and blocking patients and ambulances from accessing the facilities.

Nurses attacked an ambulance transporting a sick child to Stanger Hospital in KwaDukuza on Wednesday. They attempted to pull the child out of the ambulance at the entrance gate and prevented the ambulance from leaving.

Most roads leading to facilities were barricaded with rocks, burning tyres and tree branches.

A reliable source in one of Gauteng’s hospitals, speaking on an anonymous basis, told The Star that there were over 10 deaths since the strike began.

“I heard the minister speak about four deaths, but there are about 10 deaths in our hospital alone. The situation is dire.”

Last week we reported that a 2-year-old boy from Katlehong died at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni.

Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko visited Kopanong Provincial Hospital in Vereeniging on Saturday after being hard hit by the strike.

She said the department had put measures in place to ensure the continuation of services at the hospital.

The Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union president Rich Sicina said some of their 20 000 healthcare workers would join the Nehawu strike today.

Sicina said the strike they were embarking on was talking to the 3% that the employer unilaterally implemented last year.

“That was a demonstration of disrespect. We were clear from the start that we were with Nehawu. We are supporting the strike because whatever they are striking for is affecting our members. It affects all of us across the board as far as the healthcare system is concerned, the public sector in general.

“If it’s only us who are affected, then the government is not going to listen. Somehow, everyone must be affected. Where we are working, we need to do something that will have the community on our side. The community must actually work with us; they must never victimise the victim. Everyone must shout and say the government, under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, of the ANC, must do the right thing and give workers 10%. We deserve this 10%; remember, in 2020, we got absolutely nothing,” said Sicina.

Nehawu issued a strike notice to DPSA on Wednesday, which will commence on March 17, which it said followed the deadlock in the 2022/2023 salary negotiations at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.

The PSCBC called on parties involved to engage in a dispute resolution process and negotiations and to refrain from resolving disputes in courts and “on the streets”.

At the National Assembly plenary, Ramaphosa expressed concern over the violent nature of the strike.

He said workers had a right to strike, but that this was not absolute, stating that essential workers such as police and healthcare workers, whose absence puts lives at risk, should not be on strike.

The Star

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