Cape hospitals, schools 'functioning'

2010-08-20 18:02

Cape Town - All hospitals and the "vast majority" of schools in the Western Cape were functioning on Friday, despite the public servants' strike, the provincial government said.

Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Casey said only 116 schools, or 8% of the total in the province, were closed on Friday.

However, just under a fifth of all teachers were absent from work.

"There have been isolated incidences of intimidation around the province which have been dealt with by the police," she said.

"We are thankful that the vast majority of our schools in the Western Cape continued to function."

The provincial health department earlier rejected a union claim that strikers had "totally shut down" hospitals in the province.

Only 144 employees were on strike in the entire province on Friday morning, spokesperson Helen Rossouw said.

This represented only a fraction of one percent of the total number of health workers.

The limited strike activity at the province's two major hospitals, Tygerberg and Groote Schuur, had had no effect on service delivery, she said.

Situation 'being managed'

At Groote Schuur 77 employees - general workers, porters, catering services workers and a few nurses - were on strike on Friday morning.

Outside contractors had been brought in to take over catering, she said.

The main entrance to the hospital was blocked by strikers at one point, but the situation was "being managed".

At Tygerberg, where 33 people were on strike, no services were affected. The strike there involved cleaners, porters and clerks.

No services were affected at any of the province's regional hospitals.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) Western Cape provincial secretary Suraya Jawoodeen claimed in a statement on Friday morning that the union had "totally shut down" Groote Schuur, Tygerberg and GF Jooste hospitals.

She asked that members of the community stay away from these and other service delivery sites.

"Those who find themselves faced with a life and death situation must negotiate entry onto the premises with our marshals on the picket lines," she said.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused by our action and want to invite the community to join us on the picket lines at Groote Schuur Hospital, GF Jooste and Tygerberg."

Strikers at Groote Schuur stopped cars from entering the hospital grounds on Friday morning.

People had to park outside the hospital and walk in, said National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) member Letticia Mhlaba.

However, strikers had allowed emergency patients to drive up to the hospital, she said.


Confederation of SA Workers' Unions official Warren Nojekwa, who said he was a national negotiator for the public service unions and was speaking at the hospital, said the strike was putting pressure on employers.

The unions were maintaining their position and would not compromise, he said.

Nojekwa told the Groote Schuur strikers that people were inside working because they feared the "no work, no pay" clause.

"We need to make sacrifices, because at the end of the tunnel we are going to win," he told them.

He said it was vital that employees unite and those working should be outside showing their support.

Nupsaw Western Cape chairperson James Kruger said strikers had been outside the hospital since 6am.

He urged union members to show unity and to return to picket on Monday morning.

"A strike is not a stayaway," he told strikers.

"We need to mobilise all members. We need to crack the employer's back."

Kruger told reporters that 80% of union members had voted for the strike, so those who were inside the hospital had to come out.

The strikers had left the hospital by 11am on Friday and cars were once again allowed access to the hospital.

Kruger said union leaders would meet on Friday afternoon to discuss the way forward.