Possible end in sight for NHLS strike - Nehawu

2017-07-27 10:12
Striking Nehawu members. (COSATU via Twitter)

Striking Nehawu members. (COSATU via Twitter)

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Johannesburg – After a day of successful national protesting, the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) strike could come to an end after the Department of Health brought significant offers to the table, a union representative said on Thursday.

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) spokesperson Khaya Xaba told News24 that the department had matched a number of their demands, including a salary increase of 7.3%.

"We are going to take this and other offers they have made back to the workers and see if they accept it. There are however a number of other issues that still need to be resolved."

Xaba said that their primary concern was timelines.

"When we previously had an issue in 2015, they also came to the table with solutions, but there were no timelines and therefore poor implementation. This time round we want solid timelines."

Xaba said he was happy with the protest action throughout the country on Wednesday.

"The members were very disciplined and peaceful. We are hoping that they continue to come out in their numbers."

'Sending a strong message'

He urged workers to continue their striking on Thursday.

"They should take the fight to the employer. We lost the fight in the boardroom, but must take to [the] streets. We again call for discipline. There must be no violence or stopping traffic. We are sending a strong message to [the] employer that we will not be given slave wages and be happy."

Department of Health spokesperson Joe Maila said it was "unfortunate" that unions embarked on the strike after having previously met with aggrieved NHLS employees.

"We were hoping that the meeting will assist in averting the strike and we are still hopeful that parties will come back to the negotiation table."

He said the department called on unions to reconsider their position "as a matter of national interest".

"We are hoping that the parties will meet each other and avert the strike."

DA MPL in Gauteng Jack Bloom said that while the department arranged with private laboratories to do the most urgent tests, many other tests would not be done and backlogs would grow.

'Patients' lives at risk'

"The NHLS will be pushed further into debt as they are supposed to pay the private laboratories for the tests they do on state patients."

He said it was alarming that the NHLS estimated they will run out of money to pay salaries by November this year. This was largely because of non-payment by the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provincial health departments, he said.

"Private laboratories will not be able to cope with the volume of emergency tests should this strike persist for more than a few days. Delays and other backlogs will grow, putting patients' lives at risk and destabilising public health services."

Bloom said the department failed to address management problems at the NHLS that have contributed to the strike.

"Urgent action is needed to resolve this strike as soon as possible and chart a way forward for a properly functioning state laboratory service."

Among the employee demands are the salary adjustment of 7.3%, a housing allowance of R2 000 a month and a shift allowance of R50, or 45% of their hourly rate – whichever is the greater.

Nehawu said demands were submitted to the NHLS on February 24. The CCMA issued a certificate of non-resolution on June 22.

Read more on:    nehawu  |  johannesburg  |  protests  |  health

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