Strike: Medics, soldiers sent to hospitals

Military doctors, nurses and soldiers have been sent to hospitals at the request of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi as the public-service strike intensified on Thursday.

“The [SA National Defence Force] has been instructed to render support to any government department that may require assistance during the public-service strike,” said defence ministry spokesperson Ndivhuwo Wa Ha Mabaya.

SANDF members had already moved into Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal and were on standby in Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State, North West and the Northern Cape.

In Gauteng they would provide medical help at the Natalspruit and Chris Hani Baragwanath hospitals and in KwaZulu-Natal at the King Edward and the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial hospitals.

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.

The SANDF had also deployed soldiers to help to protect each of these hospitals.

Wa Ha Mabaya said medical staff were drawn from state military hospitals as well as doctors and specialists who usually worked at private hospitals but who were on their list of reservists willing to help.

Police fired rubber bullets at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Parktown, Johannesburg, and sprayed water at protesters at Helen Joseph Hospital in Hurst Hill, Johannesburg, when patients and visitors were barred at the entrance.

In KwaZulu-Natal a group calling themselves “Bafana Bafana” were moving between hospitals and mortuaries to shut them down.

“We have shut down St Aidan’s, RK Khan, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Addington and King Edward hospitals,” said “Bafana Bafana” spokesperson Sivuyile Ntshoko, who is also the chairperson of the King Edward branch of the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union, an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Meanwhile, the government announced that it had signed its final 7% wage increase and R700 housing allowance offer.

Unions have 21 days to accept or it will be implemented unilaterally.

Many unions have rejected the offer, saying they want 8,6% and R1 000 for housing.

The government has said it does not have the money for this. The ANC has called for a speedy resolution to the dispute and an end to intimidation.

‘Shutting down the Western Cape’
Meanwhile, unions have vowed to “shut down the entire public service” in the Western Cape on Friday.

However in a statement issued on Thursday they said that provision would be made for essential services.

The unions included the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, the SA Police Union, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, the Cape Teachers Professional Association, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, and the Public Servants Association.

They said they collectively represented 97% of all public-service employees in the Western Cape.

“There [will] however be provision made for the provision of essential services through the finalisation of minimum service level agreement[s],” they said.

This meant the health of people requiring emergency services would not be compromised.

The unions said workers would have to be compensated for pay lost as a result of the strike, so that gains in pay levels were not undone by wages lost.

Put the country first
The SA Human Rights Commission on Thursday called on government and unions to put the interests of the country first.

“While the commission recognises the fact that the right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution and is therefore a legitimate bargaining tool, the commission however calls on both government and the labour unions to place the interest of the country first,” commission spokesperson Vincent Moaga said in a statement.

The commission called on President Jacob Zuma to intervene in the negotiations between the state and the unions.

“The commission is of the view that the president’s intervention in the negotiations can hopefully bring about the necessary agreement that has been eluding the parties at the negotiation table,” said Moaga.

“This will bring an end to this strike protracted strike.”

The commission said the strike would effect this year’s matric results.

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