Ministers to meet over OSD

2009-05-26 19:05

Johannesburg - The Congress of SA Trade Unions has secured a meeting with various ministers for Wednesday to discuss the slow implementation of occupation specific pay rises, which has been highlighted by doctors' protests.

"Doctors brought this thing to a head and other categories of workers feel just as angry.

We want to see if they can break through this logjam," said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven on Tuesday.

The meeting follows a letter to seven ministers by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi warning that the issue, which had been dragging on since 2007, could see a massive strike in the public sector.

The letter was addressed to the new ministers of: public service and administration, health, higher education, basic education, justice, social service, correctional services, police and finance.

Craven did not know which ministers would be attending the meeting in Pretoria.

OSD resolution

A resolution was taken by the government to introduce an Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) for certain types of public sector workers in an effort to address their pay and working conditions.

In response to an article in the Sunday Times, new Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi denied that the health sector was in a crisis, but acknowledged that doctors were being underpaid. He said the department needed to find a way of servicing the over 40 million people not on medical aid.

Phophi Ramathuba, vice chair of the public health committee for the Cosatu-affiliated SA Medical Association (Sama), which has about 17 000 public and private sector members, said: "It doesn't help to continue our negotiations until we know what is going on with the politicians."

Most of the ministers were new and she needed to know what their views on the subject were.

"It is not just us that are affected, it is social workers, teachers, too," she said.

Public sector doctors, dentists, pharmacists and emergency services workers are included in the health sector negotiations.

Public doctors' demands 'arbitrary'

Meanwhile, the health department called public health doctors' demands of a 50% pay hike "arbitrary" and pledged to deliver health services in spite of their planned march to the health department in Pretoria on Friday.

"At this stage, the department's view is that such a demand is arbitrary, condones a one-size fits all approach and will not address the disparities that the [OSD] seeks to address," the department said in a statement.

Military medics

Doctors have been advised to apply for a day's leave to cover their participation in the march, with Sama saying the employer was responsible for ensuring that there was a replacement staffer available if leave was granted.

Private sector doctors also intend to highlight their grievances which include recommendations on what they may charge.

The department said it was unhappy that Sama had "postponed" the negotiations instead of submitting counter-proposals as expected.

Meanwhile, interventions to keep doors open during the protest action could include using military medics and transferring critically ill patients to a better staffed facility, department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said.