Nehawu plans August protests after visits reveal dangerous public health working conditions

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An emergency paramedic.
Marco Longari, AFP
  • Lack of PPE and managerial incompetence seem to be on the rise in the public healthcare system, according to trade union Nehawu.
  • Marches and stayaways are being planned for late August and September. 
  • Nehawu has created a list of demands as well as planned protest action if these demands are not met.


A fact-finding mission by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) has revealed a dangerous work environment for health workers across the country.

Reasons for this are, according to the union, a lack of protection gear for staff and a "destabilising management" style.

Speaking at a briefing on Tuesday, Nehawu's general secretary Zola Saphetha detailed the findings of their visits, conducted by the union's national office bearers.

READ | Nehawu furious after nurse dies of Covid-19: 'She was a breadwinner and she is gone now'

The mission focused on the provinces hardest hit by Covid-19, including Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

Key findings include:
  • A lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and health workers;
  • Lack of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act;
  • Staff shortages at all health institutions visited;
  • Authoritarian and destabilising management;
  • Dysfunctional district healthcare systems;
  • A decentralised response to the epidemic.

Demands and proposals

The union created a list of demands and proposals to protect health workers in the public sector. It aims to work with the Department of Health as well as medical institutions, like the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), to provide a safer working environment for health workers and staff.

ALSO READ | Nehawu to take Mkhize to court over lack of protective gear for frontline workers

The demands and proposals set out preventative measures, which could aid the public health sector during the pandemic.

A programme of action to protect workers from the virus was also created. It includes a detailed diary of actions the union will take to implement demands.

The plan includes protest action and staff stayaways, like the "Tsaya le tsatsi la Leave", planned for 26 August. It will see all Nehawu members "flock to the offices of the employer and all apply for a day's leave".

Lunch hour pickets as well as "lockdown stayaways" are planned, in which staff will "lockdown themselves at home and not go to work" on 28 August.

A National Day of Action is also planned for 3 September, which will see demonstrations across provinces. On this day, a memorandum will be handed over to Parliament, the Presidency and Premiers of the various provinces.

On 10 September, "Full Blown Action" is planned, which means the union will withdraw labour completely in all sectors - if there is no favourable response to demands. 

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