‘Get to work or be jailed’

2018-12-06 16:10
Nehawu members demonstrate at the mortuary in Howick on Wednesday against poor working conditions. PHOTOS: Sabelo Nsele

Nehawu members demonstrate at the mortuary in Howick on Wednesday against poor working conditions. PHOTOS: Sabelo Nsele

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Get back to work or go to jail.

That’s the ultimatum to striking mortuary workers from the KZN Department of Health.

The demonstrations at the Fort Napier Medico-Legal Mortuary spread to another Midlands mortuary on Wednesday.

The department told the workers, who have been on a go-slow for weeks, to return to work or face up to 30 days in jail for contempt of court.

On Wednesday, members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union held a demonstration at the government mortuary in Howick where they complained about poor working conditions.

The workers, who sang and danced while police vans were loading up bodies that had piled up, complained about air conditioners which they said had broken in 2013.

They said their pleas for the department to fix the air conditioners had been ignored since then.

While the department said it was still gathering facts on the Howick demonstration and promised to respond later, they said workers at Fort Napier had until Wednesday to return to work.

MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the ultimatum had been issued after numerous failed attempts to persuade the workers to abandon the go slow.

“The department first issued an ultimatum which was followed by an interim order granted by the court to try and interdict the workers from participating in an illegal strike.

“When not much response resulted from the interim order, another application for being in contempt of court was filed by the department. All this action happened simultaneously with the roll out of contingency plans to keep services running amid challenging circumstances that were taking a toll on many grieving families.”

Dhlomo said on Tuesday the Pietermaritzburg high court had granted the final order to interdict workers from embarking on a wild cat strike and secondly, granted a second order for the workers being in contempt of court.

“However, the labour union Nehawu, which also had a representative in court, pleaded for the immediate suspension of the implementation of the court order which would have seen arrests of all those that are subjected to it since Wednesday. The labour union then committed that workers will abide by the order.

“If the workers fail to return to work and work at optimum level, the department will be left with no option but to return to court to ask the judge to lift the suspension of the order so that laws of dealing with wild cat strikes can be implemented against employees,” he said.

It was unclear if the workers had returned to work at Fort Napier mortuary on Wednesday.

Attempts to get comment from Nehawu leadership were unsuccessful.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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