Community healthcare workers demand “danger pay”

“We need proper PPE because we work in cramped bungalows and shipping containers”

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Community healthcare workers picket outside the Khayelitsha Day Hospital on Tuesday. They want the provincial health department to employ them and to pay them R2,000 per month as Covid-19 danger pay. Photo: Vincent Lali

About 50 community healthcare workers protested outside the Khayelitsha Day Hospital on Tuesday, demanding adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 danger pay.

National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) is demanding that the community health workers be “absorbed on a level 2 salary scale” as an interim solution.

NUPSAW spokesperson Kagiso Makoe said the community healthcare workers also want to be paid R2,000 for Covid-19 danger allowance. “The Department of Health must end the exploitation of Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) and start to recognise them as permanent employees of the department and the valuable work they perform,” he said.

Makoe said the union welcomed the decision by the Gauteng Department of Health to permanently absorb all community healthcare workers on salary level 2, since 1 July 2020.

“We are disappointed that other provinces are reluctant to recognise CHWS as public servants,” he said.

Cynthia Tikwayo, chairperson of Western Cape CHWs, said they have been protesting for adequate PPE outside the hospital since March. “When we ask the department officials for a pay raise, they say we work for NGOs and therefore our payment is not their responsibility. When we demand salary increases from our health NGOs, they tell us to direct our demands to the department and say they hire and pay us according to the department’s instructions.”

Tikwayo said they want the department to value them the same way the communities they work in do.

“Because of the good work we do, residents call us nurses and social workers. The minister doesn’t even step out of her office and attend to us when we protest,” she said.

NUPSAW shop steward Bongiwe Chipeio said: “We hand over memos, meet the management and give them deadlines for dealing with our demands but nothing has come of it. We need proper PPE because we work in cramped bungalows and shipping containers where we risk infecting each other with Covid-19.”

In response to questions following the picket, Sithembiso Magubane, Western Cape Health Department spokesperson, said: “The matter is receiving attention at the level of top management. We are waiting on a decision regarding the way forward.”

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Health

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