KZN mortuary 'go-slow' over wages sees bodies stack up

2018-11-22 17:08

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Mortuary workers in KwaZulu-Natal are owed millions and a go-slow by the disgruntled employees has now led to a piling up of bodies.

Sources have told News24 that the Pinetown, Park Rynie and Fort Napier mortuaries had accumulated more than 50 bodies by this week with numbers expected to increase.

Provincial secretary of the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) Phakama Ndunakazi told News24 on Thursday that the Department of Health had gone back on its word to pay workers.

"They owe about R44m to workers in this province. We have had this issue for some time now."

Ndunakazi said employees of the State often worked beyond their scope at mortuaries but were not being paid a fair salary.

He said the matter stemmed from national engagement on the job description of workers.

"We said they should be paid more for the work they do, which [is] often beyond their scope. An agreement was signed saying workers must be paid. But they have not been paid. The workers are now saying they cannot perform duties not paid for. We agree with the workers."

Ndunakazi said workers saw the department as the ones on a go-slow.

"They are adamant that they cannot pay. The employees can work, but they must be paid. The department is not paying them. They [the department] are on go slow,: he insisted.

"They must pay."

He said the union was disturbed by the departments refusal to pay.

"The people who are working for government mortuaries are working class and formerly disadvantaged. Funerals have had to be postponed. Resources have come to a halt. It is up to the MEC to intervene. If he does not, we will take to the streets."

Ndunakazi said "it is a sad situation" because broader society would suffer.

"Now we see funerals delayed and bereaved loved ones in agony. We hope the department helps these people by paying the workers."

DA MPL Dr Imran Keeka blamed the go-slow on Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

"He has, over a period of time, done nothing to resolve the various issues that are repeatedly raised by staff even when staff frustration ends in protest action," Keeka claimed.

However, department spokesperson Agiza Hlongwane said workers concerns were being dealt with at the National Bargaining Council.

"[We] remain confident that an amicable solution will soon be found."

He said it was regrettable that some workers stayed away from mortuary work. He further claimed that some had apparently tampered "with certain infrastructure such as the air-conditioning system, so as to adversely affect normal operations".

"Others have also suspiciously called in sick in large numbers, failing to report for duty. The department wishes to assure the public that it has measures in place to prevent the accumulation of bodies, should staff continue in this illegal action."

He said the union and department would meet for a high-level meeting by Friday.

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