Newsletter outrage over Netcare's Clicks pharmacy deal

Cape Town - An employee union has criticised Netcare [JSE:NTC] for what it deems a lack of consultation with its members after announcing plans for a long-term outsourcing deal with Clicks [JSE:CLS].

Netcare, one of SA's three big private hospital groups, wants to outsource its 37 Medicross pharmacies and 51 hospital retail outlets to health and beauty retailer Clicks.

Although the union Hospersa is satisfied that the jobs of its members will be transferred to Clicks in terms of the Labour Relations Act, with the same conditions of service or even better conditions, it took issue with the way in which Netcare went about communicating the process to some staff.

The union met with Netcare on Wednesday to iron out their concerns after several complaints by their members.

"It should be noted that the meeting was the first time that Netcare engaged with Hospersa on the matter – something which is hardly best practice when it comes to good labour relations," Hospersa general secretary Noel Desfontaines told Fin24.

He said Hospersa would have expected that employees would have been consulted before the deal, which affects 178 staff members, was publicly announced.

"Hospersa’s chief concern about the deal with Clicks was the way in which it was communicated to employees – through a newsletter," Desfontaines claimed.  

"Hospersa feels that matters that affect people’s lives should be addressed with greater care and sensitivity."  

This is not the first time that the union criticised Netcare over allegedly breaking the news of the deal to some staff in the newsletter. It first made the claim in June shortly after the news of the transaction was announced.

At the time, Netcare chief executive officer Dr Richard Friedland told Fin24 in a statement that there was direct communication from line managers to all potentially affected employees.

"We can also confirm that senior human resources management communicated directly with official representatives of the relevant trade unions, inclusive of Hospersa, prior to any formal communication being generated," he noted.

Friedland said this communication occurred with a full-time shop steward of Hospersa employed by Netcare after attempts to contact another senior union employee were unsuccessful.

When approached for comment once again on this issue, Anita Tyldesley, general manager of human resources at Netcare, said: "As stated previously, we are committed to engaging our staff members on the retail pharmacy outsourcing agreement and this communication process is on-going."

The deal, which is pending until due review by the Competition Commission, is expected to come into effect in October.

"Once the deal is approved by the Competition Commission, Hospersa will ensure that Netcare sticks to the principles set forth in the [Labour Relations] Act, with specific focus on ensuring that our members’ jobs remain intact, and that they are transferred to Clicks (as their new employer) with the same (or better) conditions of employment and fringe benefits they currently enjoy at Netcare," said Desfontaines.

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