In a media release issued on 7 November the Department of Health stated it had reached an agreement with unions representing emergency medical services (EMS) workers in the province to end their work stoppage and return to work.
“The illegal strike commenced Friday last week and impacted on operations leading to the stop of operations at ambulance bases,” stated the release.
“The department activated its contingency plans to ensure that ambulance users were able to access emergency services and be transported to health facilities.
The workers had embarked on a strike that the department said was illegal, citing non-payment of overtime hours. The department said it had made the following commitment on the concerns raised by workers:
- The claims for 2003- 2011 overtime claims is referred to an arbitration process to make a ruling.
- Overtime claims for the period 2012-2014 will be paid between December this year and January next year.
- The outstanding payment of claims in 2018 between [July and October] this year will be paid during this month.
Eastern Cape Health MEC, Helen Sauls-August welcomed the end of the strike and warned against essential services workers endangering lives of patients by striking.
“We are pleased that the management and unions have reached an agreement on this. We want all our emergency staff to put our patients first and not take actions that puts their lives at risk,” said Helen Sauls-August. She also apologised to the public about the inconvenience.
The Department of Health met with EMS workers in Bhisho yesterday 8 November to sign an agreement and discuss resolutions. Grocott’s Mail spoke to a local EMS worker on the morning of 8 November. The worker stated that no resolution had been reached yet and workers were waiting for the outcome of the afternoon’s meeting.
At the time of publication, Grocott’s Mail could not obtain further comment from the worker.
“The contingency plan will remain in use until all workers have reported back to work,” stated the department’s release. “[The] Department will also monitor resumption of duties in all its ambulance bases in all districts.”