Workers hold vigil outside Gauteng health department, demanding permanent jobs

National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) says workers will protest daily

By Kimberly Mutandiro

2 May 2024

National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) members employed under contract at clinics and hospitals in Gauteng held a night vigil outside the provincial Department of Health offices on Wednesday. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

Scores of people working in hospitals and clinics across Gauteng gathered outside the offices of the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) for a night vigil on Wednesday.

The late-night event was preceded by a May Day march through Johannesburg’s city centre by members of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW).

The workers plan to submit a memorandum of their demands to Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko later on Thursday.

Among their demands on Wednesday was for permanent jobs for 2,000 workers contracted by the health department and the Expanded Public Works Programme.

“This action is motivated by the department’s arrogance and failure to act on agreed engagements with the union. We are of the view that the employer is turning a blind eye to the challenges the workers are facing under this department. Workers will protest outside the GDoH offices until the employers honour our demands,” NUPSAW said in a statement.

Workers outside the department’s office complained that their short-term contracts had been extended over and over again, some for as long as 10 years. Without permanent contracts, they say, they miss out on housing allowances, overtime and medical benefits.

“We are being exploited, yet the government is doing nothing about it. The department of health extends the programme annually, but refuses to make the workers permanent,” said Austine Mofiya, NUPSAW provincial organiser.

Nelisa Tshutshu, an administrator at the Market Clinic Avenue in Sedibeng, said she earns R3,500 per month and struggled to buy food and pay for rent and transport to work.

“I have been working with the department for five years, but nothing changes. All I want is to be made permanent so that I can start earning more money,” Tshutshu said.

The workers have vowed to remain outside the department’s offices until their demands are met.

The department had not responded to GroundUp’s questions by the time of publication.