/ 18 August 2010

Health workers join national strike

Health Workers Join National Strike

Hospersa’s 72 000 members will join the national strike in the public service sector on Thursday after the union failed to reach an agreement on wages with the government.

The union represents workers in the health sector.

Public-service unions embarked on an indefinite strike on Wednesday after rejecting the government’s revised wage offer. The M&G headed to Thokoza where members of the National Health and Allied Workers’ Union were protesting outside the Natalspruit Hospital.

“Hospersa recommends to those members operating in the essential services and who cannot embark on strike action, to rather picket during lunch hours,” general secretary Noel Desfontaines said in a statement on Wednesday.

Desfontaines advised members who felt intimidated to report incidents of intimidation to management.

Hospersa, which stands for Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA, said it was the employer’s responsibility to safeguard their workers in the workplace.

Congress of South Africa Trade Unions, or Cosatu-affiliated unions — including the SA Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) and the National Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) — and Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) went on strike in the public service sector on Wednesday.

Expected to escalate
ILC chairperson Chris Klopper said the strike was expected to escalate, as many unions were still getting their members to vote for the strike.

The Cosatu-affiliates and the ILC have rejected the government’s offer of a seven percent salary increase and a R700 monthly housing allowance.

The unions want an 8.6% increase and R1000 allowance.

The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the failure to reach an agreement had far-reaching implications.

Meanwhile Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu pleaded with striking workers to stop intimidating non-striking workers and blockading hospital entrances.

“While workers have a right to express their dissatisfaction, it is unacceptable that lives of desperate people are put at risk,” Mahlangu said in a statement on Wednesday.

The entrance of the Natalspruit hospital, in Ekurhuleni, was blocked during a protest on Wednesday.

Mahlangu urged workers to allow ambulances, doctors, nurses and patients to enter hospitals.

He said many hospital and clinics in Gauteng operated normally on Wednesday morning, at the start of the national strike in the public sector, but that disruptions occurred in the afternoon as
employees joined protests.

Full-blown strike
“The union has promised a full-blown strike from tomorrow and the department has put in place contingency measures to mitigate against the strike,” said Mahlangu.

These measures included the deployment of administrative staff from central and regional offices to assist the worst-affected
clinics and hospitals.

Volunteers would be mobilised and hospital managers and senior officials on training would be called back.

“All hospitals and clinics will remain open during the strike and the department will closely monitor the impact of the industrial action.

“All hospitals have established a strike committee, which will evaluate the situation regularly and call for assistance when necessary,” Mahlangu said.
— Sapa