Health dept condemns strike violence

2012-11-27 20:52
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Johannesburg - Intimidation and damage to property during an illegal strike by Eastern Cape paramedics is worrying, a provincial health official said on Tuesday.

"It is criminal and against the Constitution and laws of [the] country," spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said.

"When fighting for your rights you are not supposed to undermine other people's rights. We are worried by the situation... We have committed to pay money that is owed to them."

The strike was prompted by issues relating to overtime, performance bonuses, salaries, and discrepancies in salaries.

Kupelo said paramedics, who had been on strike since last week, were intimidating their non-striking colleagues and had threatened to burn down their houses.

Late on Tuesday, shots were fired at a vehicle transporting 11 patients from Frere Hospital, East London, to the Frontier Hospital in Queenstown.

"Fortunately no one was hurt; the bullet went through the window."

The vehicle received a police escort to Queenstown and a case was opened.

Striking workers had caused damage estimated at R1m to the provincial call centre, forcing its closure, he said.

On Monday, strikers switched off the oxygen at Bhisho Hospital. The patients affected were taken to nearby hospitals.

"We condemn the criminal element which is putting the lives of people at risk."

Kupelo said the province had to rely on private ambulance companies.

The strike was about the R191m owed to workers and was organised by an unrecognised splinter union.

The department had paid R9m to about 2000 workers and was busy paying off the rest of the debt.

Kupelo said some of the workers had not supplied the department with the paperwork required to process the payments.

"We will only pay for legitimate claims, and we won't be pressured by striking workers and make irregular payments."

He said the department had been in similar position in 2009, when it paid R387m to striking workers, instead of R26m. Since then the provincial health department had paid salaries on time.

Eastern Cape police could not immediately confirm reports of intimidation or damage to property.

- SAPA
Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  east london  |  strikes  |  labour
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