Community health workers toyi-toyi outside Alan Winde’s offices

They were demanding full employment by the province

| By

Community health workers marched to the offices of Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Friday demanding that they be employed by the province. Photos: Vincent Lali

Hundreds of community health workers toyi-toyed and sang struggle songs outside the offices of Western Cape Premier Alan Winde in Cape Town on Friday in a protest organised by the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW).

The workers wore NUPSAW T-shirts and carried placards. One read: “Down with slavery now’’.

Solly Malema, general secretary of NUPSAW, said the workers, who are currently employed by civic organisations, want to be taken onto the province’s permanent staff, with full benefits. He said community health workers did not even get maternity leave.

Melanie Alperstein, from the People’s Health Movement, said community health workers were at the “coalface” of the Covid pandemic and they continue to provide TB, HIV, maternal and child care, and care for elderly people. In many instances “they are the only accessible health workers”, she said.

Alperstein called on Winde to employ carers permanently and abolish a “system of slavery”.

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), said every health worker should be insourced. “Community health workers are the first to knock on doors of sick people and give them pills, clean them, and counsel them.”

“Without you, thousands of workers who were sick would have died,” he said.

SAFTU leader Zwelinzima Vavi said community health workers should all be insourced.

Salaama Abrahams, a community health worker from Bonteheuwel, said they want the same benefits as government employees who get a housing allowance, uniforms, pension and provident fund.

Abrahams said some community workers do even more work than some staff at government hospitals. “But we earn R4,800, while they get R15,000. We do wounds, TB tests, sputum collection and delivery to clinics,” she said.

Nomathemba Maduna, secretary of the sector committee of community health workers, said, “Transport, rent, food and electricity prices go up every day. Once we work under the government, we will be able to afford those things.”

In its memorandum, NUPSAW said community health workers should get proper personal protective equipment and should not have to perform tasks which expose them to danger. There was no “rational or legal basis” for excluding them from being permanent staff.

Dr Douglas Newman, head of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, received the memo and said the Premier will respond.

A spokesperson for the Western Cape health department said the department had considered absorbing community health workers and this was being discussed in the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council.

TOPICS:  Health Labour Labour unions

Next:  Hundreds picket outside Gauteng social development offices

Previous:  Ratepayers block plans to upgrade informal settlement in eThekwini

© 2024 GroundUp. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

We put an invisible pixel in the article so that we can count traffic to republishers. All analytics tools are solely on our servers. We do not give our logs to any third party. Logs are deleted after two weeks. We do not use any IP address identifying information except to count regional traffic. We are solely interested in counting hits, not tracking users. If you republish, please do not delete the invisible pixel.