Workers take a stand

2017-06-28 06:02
Richard Marston in conversation with some of the employees of the Sunflower House Hospice. Photo: Mikael Paulse

Richard Marston in conversation with some of the employees of the Sunflower House Hospice. Photo: Mikael Paulse

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The working relationship between employees and management at the Sunflower House Hospice in Bloemfontein has gone sour.

The workers blame the breakdown in the relationship on complex issues such as alleged ill-treatment and wages of below R1 500.

The centre cares for about 14 children with chronic life-threatening illnesses and HIV and AIDS.

Situated on the premises of the National Hospital, the hospice centre is run by two directors, Richard and Jane Marston.

The centre is registered as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and is reportedly funded by the Free State Department of Social Development after a number of donors had pulled out. These donors, including banks and big corporate companies, allegedly pulled out due to non-compliance and failure to submit audited financial statements.

Lerato Kapa, spokesperson of the department, confirmed that the hospice had received R281 000 in May. This amount includes a stipend for the 19 workers.

All hell broke loose on Friday (23/06) when disgruntled workers abandoned children to picket within the premises of the centre for hours.

They held up placards expressing their frustration and grievances.

They told Express that they had resorted to protest action to have their voice heard.

They reportedly suffer under­payment, having worked for over ten years for a salary ranging from R900 to R1 400. They also cried out against ill-treatment by the managing director.

Disgruntled workers reasoned that they were forced to protest after their fruitless attempts to get assistance from the officials of the Free State Department of Social Development.

The staff demand better working conditions and improved wages. They describe their current salary as “slave wages”.

Those who reported for work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday resorted to a go-slow, sitting in the centre doing nothing.

Melinda Muller, employed as ­manager, was the only one helping to feed the children.

“We are made to appear as though we do not care when we demand an improvement of wages and good treatment. The last increment was R8 and R2, way back in 2005,” said one disgruntled female worker.

“What pains us is the fact that there is no monitoring and evaluation by the donors to see if the directors comply and that we get wages on which we can survive and provide for our families. What we earn is laughable,” another employee said.

Upon being approached for comment while at the centre, Marston declined to comment, but did not deny the allegations. He was spotted arguing with some of the employees.

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