Layoffs may harm health service

2010-02-02 00:00

THE massive retrenchments of temporary staff at the Health Department on Friday will cripple service delivery, as the temporary staff are in the majority and perform most of the department’s critical functions, said the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

Last Friday, the department terminated its contract with labour brokers, as well as all employees employed through the labour brokers. The blanket retrenchments affect the whole province, from head offices to districts, from hospitals to cli­nics.

In the Pietermaritzburg head offi­ce, it is believed that at least 400 employees have been affected. These include employees from the Natalia building, Capital Towers, Medical Chamber, central provincial stores, the HIV and Aids, STI and TB (Hast) unit and district offices.

Some of the critical posts that have been left vacant include those in the asset management division, where the supervisor is a permanent staff member. Other departments affected are acquisition, which has only three supervisors who are permanent staff members, and the IT department, which is made up entirely of temporary staff.

The temporary staff members who gathered outside the head office at Natalia building yesterday protested their dismissal, saying that while they agree with the removal of labour brokers, they are against the removal of employees who have given years of service to the department and “made it what it is”.

“Some of the people have been working here for over six years and now they are told that they are no longer needed,” said one of the employees who asked not to be named.

The employees said the department’s senior managers did not bo­ther to inform them that their contracts had been cancelled.

“We only learned that we would be without jobs via the department’s intranet.”

They said their representatives have made an offer to the department to absorb the employees for a period of six months while they evaluate their financial standing; this was apparently rejected by head of department Dr Sibongile Zungu.

The department offered only a two-month contract for 60% of the employees who have been retrenched.

Sifiso Zondi, chairperson of Nehawu in the Health Department , said they had rejected the offer and demanded that all the employees be reinstated.

“Many of the critical posts just in the head offices are filled by temporary staff. If you remove them, who will do those jobs?”

A spokesman for the department, Chris Maxon, said there were 356 temporary workers as at January 31. “Of this number, 230 have been offered fixed-term appointments of two months, from February 1 to March 31.”

Similar appointments have been offered to 18 of the 31 temporary employees in supply chain management and where 13 of the 22 temporary employees in central provincial stores.

“The department is currently assessing the staffing needs of components with a view of creating organisational structures and establishments, which will enable the components to function optimally,” said Maxon.

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