Protest over contracts and pay

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The National Health and Education Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Grahamstown and Port Alfred Community Health Care workers held a peaceful march from Joza Location, via Fingo Square, to hand over a memorandum to the Makana District Office of Health on Tuesday 18 October.

The National Health and Education Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Grahamstown and Port Alfred Community Health Care workers held a peaceful march from Joza Location, via Fingo Square, to hand over a memorandum to the Makana District Office of Health on Tuesday 18 October.

The memorandum was read by Nehawu’s Max Madlingozi regional secretary Siyabonga Kobese. It demanded that Community Health workers be employed full time with immediate effect for as long as there is a need for them to render the services they do, as public servants.

“You cannot continue to engage workers on a monthly contract basis, therefore we demand that these workers be absorbed to be full time government employees and paid decent salaries,” it read.

The memorandum further demanded that the workers be provided with protective gear as stipulated in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and for department to make sure that these demands were met and employees to be employed full time where vacancies were available.

“We hope that this memorandum will be processed and given to the MEC of the province so that the workers can be paid decent salaries and be employed as permanent staff of the department,” Kobese said.

Nehawu chairperson in Fort England, Thando Mtshalala said Community Health Care workers are given a maximum stipend of R2 000, they work on a contractual basis which is renewed monthly and they do not have government benefits like medical aid and pension funds.

“Some of these people have been community workers for over 20 years and when they retire, they are left with nothing, not even pension funds!” he said.

Mtshalala confirmed that negotiations between Nehawu and the Department of Health have been taking place for six months and there are only two signatures to go for the health care workers to be enrolled by the department on a permanent basis.

“They are dragging the process out and every time we go there as the union, they says the officials that are supposed to sign these documents are not in office,” said Mtshalala.

Mtshalala added that if their demands were not met then the march would escalate into a provincial and then national march.

Rhoda Mahlakahlaka said she has been a Health Care worker for 21 years and throughout those years, it has been nothing but “more work and less pay”.

“Working under such conditions is strenuous because I am not getting any younger and when I retire at 60, I will have no pension fund,” she said.

Qiniseka Gxekwa said being underpaid did not only affect her but also her family because she has siblings to take care of and her children to take to school.

“We work from 8am to 4pm, we take care of sick people and visit their homes, we dress wounds and take sputum, the workload accumulates every time but the wages stay the same,” she said.

Acting Makana Sub-District Manager Zoleka Menziwa received and signed the memorandum, saying that the department respects the issues and demands in it.

“We live in a democratic country and as South Africans you decided to exercise your democratic right and we as management accept this memorandum because the issues raised are genuine,” she said

Menziwa also vowed to give the memorandum to the relevant people by the end of Tuesday.

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