29 March 2023
About 50 former community health workers who worked in Ekurhuleni protested outside the Gauteng health department’s Johannesburg office on Tuesday.
The protesters say they represent 382 health workers whose jobs were terminated by the City of Ekurhuleni in June 2022. They want permanent jobs with the Gauteng health department.
They say they worked on fixed-term contracts annually. They were paid R3,500 per month in late 2021. Some had started in 2009. They went door-to-door, testing, counselling and creating awareness around HIV/ AIDS, TB and sexually transmitted infections. They also referred patients to clinics or hospitals and did Covid screening during the pandemic.
They say many community health workers were taken on as permanent workers by the health department in 2020, but they were excluded.
Protester Ayanda Ntuli said they were “promised numerous times that we would not be left behind in the absorption process”.
“Some of our members died of Covid because we worked even during level 5 of the lockdown. So they thanked us by sacking us. It is unfair,” said Ntuli.
A representative of the health department received and signed the memorandum.
“We humbly request the Gauteng Health Province to continue with the process of absorption that was stopped in 2020,” the workers say in their memorandum.
“It’s painful to see other people working in our place while our families go hungry … The department should have a heart and give us our jobs back,” said Zandile Masilela, who said she had worked in the programme in Kwathema since 2009.
Motalatale Modiba, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Health, said, “There are a group of people referred to as peer educators in Sedibeng District Municipality and Community Support Programme Officers in City of Ekurhuleni who are responsible for HIV and AIDS coordination in communities. These groups of people … are demanding to be absorbed by the Gauteng Department of Health.”
“It is important to highlight that the group of people are not Community Health Workers appointed by the Department but were in the employ of different municipalities in Gauteng.”
He said a thorough and consultative process had been concluded in July 2020 when the department absorbed 8,619 community health workers into permanent positions.
The workers will attend an arbitration hearing at the Benoni Bargaining Council on 3 April.
City spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said, “The Community Support Programme is part of the Expanded Public Works Programme and they are employed for 12 months as stipulated in the contracts they sign with the City.”
Dlamini said the contracts stipulate that there is no expectation created for permanent employment.
“This is not the first time that this group has raised this matter with various authorities, and each time they have not been successful,” said Dlamini.