Health dept staff protest outside 'unsafe' Civitas Building after notice issued

2018-10-30 16:31
National Department of Health. (Supplied: Department of Health)

National Department of Health. (Supplied: Department of Health)

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National Department of Health employees have been prevented from entering the "unsafe" Civitas Building in Pretoria where they work, after the Department of Labour issued a prohibition notice on Monday. 

According to the notice, the building "continues to be unsafe and unhealthy for employees". It states that ventilation systems, activators and sprinkler systems in the building are not in working order. 

In a statement, the Public Servants Association (PSA) said a meeting was held with a chief inspector representative of the labour department whereby the notice was authorised.

Continued protests at Civitas Building

On Tuesday morning, a group of employees protested outside the building.

PSA chairperson for the Department of Health, Peter Moloi, told News24 that employees were waiting for the department to communicate the way forward.

Bhungani Mzolo, a shop steward at the department for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) added that the notice was a victory for workers' rights.

"From now on, there is no worker who is going suffer because the building they are working in is unhealthy or unsafe," Mzolo said. 

"Workers now know that their rights include occupational health [and] safety standards."

Appeal of prohibition notice

However, the notice is being appealed, according to Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja. The health department has asked that the labour department send a team of people – instead of just one person – to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the building.  

Speaking about the prohibition notice, Maja added: "Our understanding is that it was taken in a meeting without practical assessment of work that has been done by the Department of Public Works."

Employees have been protesting against the health standards at the building for several months.

Earlier in October, News24 reported that government employees working in the building were dealt a blow after the Labour Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear applications brought in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.

Read More: Blow to govt employees as Labour Court rules it can't hear 'death trap building' cases

Through their unions, employees approached the court in an effort to force their employers to comply with the act and to stop them from disciplining them for refusing to work in the building.

Building safety 

The safety of buildings took centre stage after three firefighters died while battling a blaze that broke out in the Lisbon Building, which houses government employees, in the Johannesburg CBD in September.

News24 also reported that two fires broke out at the Civitas Building in September. Although no one was injured, the PSA said the fires proved that the building was not health and safety compliant.

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Read more on:    nehawu  |  psa  |  pretoria  |  protests

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