Health department agrees to pay nurses uniform allowance

The temporary allowance is R3,153

By Marecia Damons

17 October 2023

Nurses threatened to work in their own clothes if problems with uniforms and uniform allowances were not resolved. Graphic: Lisa Nelson

The Department of Health has averted a standoff with nurses in the public sector with a last-minute agreement to pay nurses a temporary allowance to buy uniforms.

Nurses threatened to work in their own clothes if the department failed to provide them either with uniforms or with an allowance by 1 October. This plan was put on hold pending negotiations between unions and the health department.

Since 2005, nurses received an annual allowance to buy their uniforms. But this ended on 31 March this year after a new agreement was signed by the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council. Under the new agreement, nurses would be provided with uniforms.

As a result, nurses did not get the usual allowance in April this year. Instead, they were supposed to be provided with uniforms by 1 October 2023.

The agreement stated that in the first year, the department must provide nurses with four sets of uniforms, one pair of shoes, and one jersey. In the second year, it must provide three sets of uniforms, one belt, and one jacket.

But then, at a last-minute meeting of the bargaining council in September, the department told unions that it would be unable to meet the 1 October deadline. It proposed to put on hold the supply of uniforms until 2024.

Spokesperson for the Democratic Nursing Association of South Africa (DENOSA) Sibongiseni Delihlazo said labour unions said that if the department was unable to supply the uniform by 1 October, they must pay nurses an allowance as previously.

If the department failed to provide uniforms or pay an allowance, DENOSA said, its 84,000 members would embark on an indefinite protest action by wearing their own clothes at work from 1 October.

Following the last-minute bargaining council meeting in September, a new agreement was signed on 4 October.

The bargaining council resolved that a temporary uniform allowance of R3,153 be paid to all qualifying nurses by 30 November 2023. The health department also agreed to provide nurses with uniforms by 1 September 2024.

If the department fails to provide the uniforms by 1 September 2024, “the uniform allowance shall continue, considering the applicable inflation rate annually, as pronounced by the National Treasury in February”, the agreement read.