Workers protest in Gauteng, demand health department give them jobs

Union says those who helped during Covid epidemic must get permanent employment

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Members of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers are demanding that the Gauteng Department of Health give permanent jobs to temporary workers recruited during the Covid epidemic as well as security guards and other workers. Photo: Chris Gilili

Over 200 members of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) protested at the offices of the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) on Thursday morning.

The workers want community health workers and workers employed under the Expanded Public Works Programme, among others, to be brought onto the department’s staff.

The department has announced plans to terminate the contracts of over 800 health workers recruited during the Covid-19 pandemic.

NUPSAW Gauteng provincial chairperson Sibusiso Nkasa said workers wanted the department to permanently employ all contract workers who have worked hard throughout the pandemic. “All workers deserve benefits from the department. We demand that all contracts in this department must come to an end,” said Nkasa. He said if the demands were not heard, the union would call all its members to intensify their action.

“We will call all Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Hospital workers to come here.”

Solly Malema, general secretary of NUPSAW, said: “Community healthcare workers have been at the forefront of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, but they are still neglected. We are marching today and saying the department must immediately withdraw all the letters of termination of employment that were handed to our workers.”

“Today they must listen to us, otherwise we will camp here again.”

Before the protest on Thursday, workers including some affiliated to the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), held a night vigil outside the offices of the provincial health department.

Security guard Thamsanwa Mathembiso, from Orange Farm, who works for a private security company at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, told GroundUp security guards had been ignored for years.

“We have been engaging the department to employ us since 2018 as security officers. Private companies are exploiting us,” said Mathembiso.

He said security officers believe once absorbed by the Department of Health their working conditions will improve. Mathembiso has worked at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital since 2015.

Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana told GroundUp the department would have liked to retain all the temporary staff appointed during the pandemic, but the current budget did not allow this.

“Available vacant funded posts are filled as and when they become available,” she said.

On the question of security guards, Kekana said the department was currently assessing security needs. “The outcome of the assessment will guide the department on financial implications.”

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Health Unemployment

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