Health MEC threatens go-slow paramedics

2013-02-07 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo has threatened to take disciplinary action against Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) paramedics who fail to produce medical certificates for the days they have booked off sick.

It is alleged that they are part of a group who have been on a go-slow over grievances they have with the department.

Speaking to The Witness, Dhlomo said more than 70 staff members had reported sick since January 30.

“We want them to produce sick notes and if they fail to do so, we will follow procedures as they are conducting an illegal strike, because we did not receive notice of a strike.

“We will be engaging unions on this matter as we won’t be addressing staff as individuals”.

He said the service was operating on a skeleton staff.

Some of the members walked out of a meeting with MEC and unions at Stanger Hospital on Tuesday. The meeting had been held to address issues that had resulted in a partial go-slow.

Aggrieved staff members met the MEC following the go-slow, but left after the MEC refused to be addressed by Sifiso Dlamini, who was fired from the department for alleged bad behaviour last year.

While the group of EMRS employees was not represented by a union, the department had called the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) and Public Servants’ Association to the meeting with Dhlomo.

As the MEC was trying to address the staff they stormed out, led by Dlamini.

Nehawu provincial secretary Zola Saphetha said: “We will be dealing with their problems at our next meeting with the MEC on February 21 because most of the complaints are operational.

“They did not want to hear that the MEC is in discussion with the unions on their grievances.”

He also warned their members to distance themselves from the go-slow.

Denosa provincial secretary Cassim Lekhoathi echoed Saphetha’s comments that by walking out, staff had forfeited the opportunity to speak to the MEC.

“They are not represented by a union in this action and it will be a problem as the department will be implementing laws that will be against them.”

Lekhoathi said that some of those participating in the go-slow had booked off sick.

Speaking for the strikers, Sifiso Dlamini said: “All paramedics in KwaZulu-Natal are employed to work 40 hours a week, which is equal to 160 hours per month,

“That was changed without any corrective agreement to 173 hours a month … So for these 13 [extra] hours, they are not getting paid for overtime, they are working for free.”

Dlamini said the employees had not received the danger pay promised to them dating back to 2007, despite the money being budgeted for.

Makhosazana Mdlalose, a Democratic Alliance MPL, said the party did not condone strike action, particularly within essential service areas.

“We are sympathetic to the plight of these men and women who have clearly been given the runaround for the past eight years.

“The DA calls upon the MEC to approach this issue with a fresh attitude and to engage with EMRS workers in an open and honest manner. They must be given the answers they deserve,” said Mdlalose.

A source in the EMRS said the service was still short staffed as a result of the go-slow.

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