- Seven trade unions have indicated they will go on strike at health facilities in Limpopo next week.
- The Limpopo Health Department has described the move by the unions as "bullying".
- The department said the changes it made were because too much of its budget was being spent on wages and overtime payments.
Seven trade unions in the health sector in Limpopo have served a joint notice of intention to strike over what they say is the unilateral change of working conditions of nurses and other healthcare workers.
Limpopo Health Department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana has confirmed receipt of the notice served on Friday.
The seven unions include the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa), and the Public Servants' Association (PSA).
In the notice, the unions indicated the strike – to be preceded by lunch hour pickets – will commence next week across all health facilities in the province. Personnel who will embark on the strike also include paramedics and other related workers.
The unions have already been issued a certificate of non-resolution of the dispute by the public health and social development sectoral bargaining council.
But provincial health’s head of department Dr Thokozani Mhlongo on Monday described the unions’ intention to strike as “bullying”.
She said the unions, in a meeting late last year, demanded that authorities first withdraw the proposal of changing the working conditions before they could enter into any discussions.
“The department disagreed with labour unions on this because it felt that it was tantamount to bullying the management on matters that it has the full prerogative to decide,” Mhlongo said.
She said the decision to change working conditions was premised on financial constraints as 70% of the budget was spent on salaries and overtime for employees.
“In 2017 and 2018, the budget for overtime in this department was just over R800 million. As at the end of the 2019/20 financial year, the overtime expenditure was at more than R900 million.
“There is adequate budget within this overtime amount to employ so many of the young people who are unemployed out there because many of the much-needed posts could be filled or the money could be used to fix our infrastructure or procure medicine and ambulances,” Mhlongo said.She indicated that authorities were still willing to engage the unions.