Local News/06 March 2023,13:24/ Molefi Sompane
National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) members protesting outside hospital in Free State:image supplied
By Molefi Sompane: The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) members have joined their union outside various Free State Hospitals in Mangaung, Sasolburg, Qwaqwa and Welkom on Monday, 6 March leaving their post to protest against the salary increase.
This however brought many reports of disruptions at facilities by striking workers while their union denies the claims.
According to NEHAWU spokesperson Lwazi Nkolosi their strike would not disrupt services. He denied claims that some striking workers had been denying other workers entry and blocking movement in various hospitals.
The claim was also been confirmed by the a department of health in the Free State adding that police had to be called. The Free State Department of Health reports cases of intimidation to its staff in various facilities around the Province.
According to the Spokesperson Mondli Mvambi the over 5 facilities were affected by NEHAWU strike.
“We have received information so far, as at 09am this morning of Monday, 06 March 2023 that members of Nehawu have barricaded access and disrupted services to the following health facilities in the Free State:
Mofumahali Manapo Mopeli Regional Hospital and Elizabeth Ross in QwaQwa, Fezi Ngubentombi in Sasolburg , Boitumelo Hospital in Kroonstad and Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein,” he says.
With growth of disruptions going on at the facilities Mvambi adds the reinforcement of law by police was sought.
“The Department has contacted the Law Enforcement Agencies to ensure that the Constitutional Right to Health is not infringed by those that are participating in the strike. It is unclear so far as to who is actively participating in the strike as services have not grounded to a complete halt,” he says.
These strikes in Free State are part of the national protest by NEHAWU on salary increase offer made to public servants by Government.
Although the union was barred from striking it reported it’s intention to appeal a court order, obtained by the Department of Public Service and Administration, to interdict the strike.
Both Nehawu and other public sector unions have been locked in a long-standing battle with government over wages, a reason many people accuse government of poor services at its health facilities.
When Free State Insider, contacted Nkolosi after local members of the union denied to respond to questions outside Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein he says
“We are happy of how our members responded to this call. We have not engaged or advised members to disrupt or block entry at any place of gathering,” he says.
He adds that the moral of workers has been low and government as the employer has been not willing to remunerate employees according to inflation.
“Over the last three years, workers have been robbed of salary increments. Government is offering 0.5% to workers. We have been saying, can government agree to the demand of a 10% salary increment with R2 500 housing allowance? Services aren’t going to be disrupted. They range from the police, home affairs, justice, state admin, etc,” he says.
The choice of venue of gather by members of union from different departments to have gathered at various hospitals is considered strategic by a local oganiser Sello Pholo.
“You will remember that as NEHAWU we have members in many departments and we decided to gather outside hospitals in solidarity with our members in the health sector to remind our employer that health is important and without our members at work lives of many can be in danger. We did so as part of trying to change minds of those representing employer,” Pholo says.
He adds that they were not disrupting the work at the hospital. “We cannot disrupt services and we are not going to urge members to do that. We are protesting in a peaceful manner and hope that government will have change of heart over our grievances,” he concludes.
Meanwhile in Welkom workers of the Bongani Hospital have reported to have been threatened by others.
Tshepiso Maimane says there were group of workers who barred them from making an entry to work. “They called me a sell out and threatened to deal with me. I personally called cops and they left. I believe we both have rights and I cannot exercise my rights while undermining others. Some workers undermined our rights when we chose to be working instead of joining the strike.”
Over 3000 workers have joined NEHAWU protest around the Free State with gatherings at hospitals under heavy police watch.
Patients at Pelonomi in Bloemfontein have reported being taken care of by working workers. Bernice Ncheka says: “Nurses are working hard to help us because they are short staffed and I wish government can give them increase so that the strike can end.”
Free State Insider, can report that the gathering at the Pelonomi Hospital turned violent when workers were burning tyres inside the packing lot. Four members were arrested.