The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) will enter into a legal agreement with the provincial government to ensure that workers at the Department of Health receive the wage bill. Nehawu Provincial Secretary Jacob Adams said the union had a meeting with the relevant parties in Provincial Government on Monday to come up with a solution to the longstanding stalemate around the payment of the second and third notch progressions owed to workers since 2012.
He said the union is in a sensitive situation at the moment as they are busy drafting a legal agreement to be signed by both the union and the local government. However, Adams did not want to reveal the nitty-gritty of the agreement, but confirmed that workers are still not reporting for duty and will only start working after the agreement has been finalised.
Nehawu members picketed outside the Pietersburg Provincial Hospital on Monday, demanding that the department attends to their grievances.
The workers have been on strike for about two weeks now and threatened to carry on with the strike until the department pays them. The union calls on the Limpopo Premier, Stan Mathabatha to intervene and resolve the matter as soon as possible.
Adams outlined that they have been engaging with government on this matter since August last year and at one point government agreed to pay but a month later changed their minds. Nehawu marched and engaged in lunch hour picketing since then without any success. He said it was unfair that only four departments had been paid these performance incentives correctly while with the rest of the departments want to pay only a fraction of workers who qualify.
“We have warned that this is a recipe for a confrontation in the workplace. We also condemn the apartheid tactics employed by the employer to try to intimidate and beat workers into submission by utilising the courts with a spate of court interdict against the union, its leaders and workers in general,” explained Adams.
He said the unleashing of security forces on workers continues to fail dismally to intimidate workers but only work to mobilise them more, just like it failed during the apartheid era.
He added that they still implore the employer to meet with the union and resolve the demands of workers and stop engaging through courts and ultimatums while ignoring the real issues on the table.
Nehawu threatened to mobilise all its members to continue to join the growing picket lines in various departments. The union says members will continue to intensify the strike and maintain the total shutdown in all social development offices in the province in pursuit of their demands.
Department of Health Spokesperson, Derick Kganyago said the department has been engaging with the union since the beginning of the strike. He said the department has the money to pay the workers but there are certain policies and principles that need to be followed before payments can be made. “This matter can only be resolved by relevant parties from the national office. It is said that other departments paid workers without following the right procedures and this put the respective departments in hot water,” he explained, adding that they did not want to repeat mistakes made by other departments.
Story & photos: ENDY SENYATSI