Workers cry for help

2017-05-10 06:02
Mohau Tshabalala (centre), convenor of the Community Health Workers and Caregivers (CHWC) in the Free State, addresses colleagues after handing over a memorandum of demands to Dr Balekile Mzangwa, Free State government chief of operations (far right). Next to Mzangwa is Maruping More, secretary of CHWC. Photo: Teboho Setena

Mohau Tshabalala (centre), convenor of the Community Health Workers and Caregivers (CHWC) in the Free State, addresses colleagues after handing over a memorandum of demands to Dr Balekile Mzangwa, Free State government chief of operations (far right). Next to Mzangwa is Maruping More, secretary of CHWC. Photo: Teboho Setena

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The plight of the Community Health Workers and Caregivers (CHWC) in the Free State, who allege exploitation through receiving low wages, being overworked and receiving payment late, continues unabated.

Their cry for help to be rescued from the situation they describe as slavery has not been heard.

For years they have pleaded with the Free State Department of Health to review their working conditions.

They wish to be employed permanently and be administered by the department, rather than by non-go-vernmental organisations (NGO), which they accuse of exploiting and ill-treating them.

The sad tale of people working on fixed-term contracts took centre stage on Friday (05/05) during a peaceful protest outside the headquarters of the Free State Department of Health at Lebone House in Bloemfontein.

Express has reliably learnt that the contracted NGO, Lesedi-Lechabile Primary Care, has not paid the approximately 1 300 workers in the Free State.

Outstanding payment is for April. The NGO in question has been contracted by the Free State Department of Health.

Working on fixed term contracts, caregivers earn R2 000 and community health workers get R2 200 per month.

The protest saw displeased workers handed over a memorandum of demands to Dr Balekile Mzangwa, chief operations director at the Free State Department of Health.

Subsequent to the workers’ bitter complaints about longstanding late payment, Mzangwa promised the workers he would find out why the NGO has not payed them.

However, Maruping More, CHWC secretary, said no one had been paid by Tuesday (09/05) and no response was forthcoming from the department.

Efforts by Express to get clarity about the payment debacle from Mapheko Moletsane, co-director of Lesedi-Lechabile Primary Care, were futile. An SMS sent out on 28 April to the workers read: “Lesedi-Lechabile Private Company did not receive money from the PDoH. The PDoH report that they are still busy with the budget process. Colleagues, this is the only reason LLPC has received. You’ll be informed of development.”

Workers could not hide their frustration about the ongoing late payment and the department’s unfulfilled promises to address their plight.

“It is a norm of this NGO’s management to pay us late. If lucky, we get paid five days into the new month. We sometimes get paid in the middle or towards the end of the new month. As a result of late payment, many of us had our insurance policies lapsed, because premium payments were missed,” said a bitter female worker.

“The management expect us to still report for duty despite not paying us,” lamented another female worker.

“When one fails to report for duty because he or she does not have money for transport, the management deducts R90 from the wage, leaving you with nothing.”

Representatives of CHWC have given the Free State Department of Health 21 working days to reply to their demands.

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