Strike on hold for now

2017-05-24 06:02
The employees of the Free State Association for Persons with Disabilities protest at Bloemfontein’s Jean Webber Home. Photo:Teboho Setena

The employees of the Free State Association for Persons with Disabilities protest at Bloemfontein’s Jean Webber Home. Photo:Teboho Setena

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The employees of the Free State Association for Persons with Disabilities (APD) at Bloemfontein’s Jean Webber Home have temporarily suspended their strike.

The suspension is part of negotiations between the management and the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) over demands that include a wage increase and working conditions.

The employees downed tools on Tuesday, 16 May, demanding a wage increase for the 2017-’18 financial year and the outstanding increase for the 2016-’17 financial year.

Approximately 37 employees affiliated with the union at two centres, the Jean Webber Home in Park Road and the Emalia Care Centre in Bochabela, Bloemfontein, embarked on the strike. Both centres accommodate persons with disabilities, including children.

The employees demand that the APD management pay the outstanding increase for the past financial year (2016-’17) and improve the conditions at the centres. The employees describe the conditions as appalling to endure for both employees and residents housed at the Jean Webber Home. In addition, the workers demand that management increase staff as part of improving working conditions. Currently the Jean Webber Home has 34 boarding paying residents.

Danie Marais, acting director at the APD, said a meeting was held with union representatives to address their grievances. He said the meeting held on Tuesday paved the way for further consultation with the union. Marais said management agreed with the union representatives about which issues must be addressed.

Regarding a wage increase for the employees, Marais said: “Not all of the staff at the APD got a wage increase in the past financial year. It is not only the care workers who did not get a wage increase.”

He said the executive of the APD also plans to have a meeting this week to review the situation, adding that the APD was financially strained due to the fact that it was relying on donors, as with other non-government organisations.

“Of concern is that the strike was illegal and the workers were made aware of it,” said Marais.

Express has been informed that the union plans to take the other issues to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The employees bitterly lament the fact that they have been working for many years without benefits and low wages, adding that they want at least R3 000 per month.

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