Nehawu threatens full-blown strike over Covid-19 safety

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Members of Nehawu during a previous protest.
Members of Nehawu during a previous protest.
Alex Mitchley, News24
  • Nehawu plans to use a strike at the National Health Laboratories Service as a launching pad for a national programme of action.
  • It will start pickets next week ahead of a full-blown strike if its demands are not met.
  • Nehawu is demanding adequate provision of personal protective equipment and the active involvement of workers to ensure their safety through Occupational Health and Safety committees, among other demands.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) has threatened to down tools next month if its demands to protect workers from Covid-19 are not met.

The union also warned a strike at the National Health Laboratories Service would be used as a launch pad for the implementation of its national programme of action.

Nehawu general-secretary Zola Saphetha said the union had been focusing on immediate concerns regarding the health and safety of its members who were on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19.

READ | Covid-19 tenders in Gauteng: Here's the companies paid millions for goods and services

Nehawu is demanding the adequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), active involvement of workers to ensure their safety through Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) committees at workplaces, psychosocial support, transport and a solidarity incentive for the patriotic contribution made by frontline workers, among others.

"As a result, the union chooses not to fold its arms and watch its members dying and be subjected to hazardous environments which has claimed the lives of many frontline workers, while on the other hand observing the government undermining the collective bargaining agreement by reneging on Resolution 1 of 2018.

"… workers are extremely angry at the poor pace of transformation and government's inability to improve the lives of public servants, including freezing their wage increase by reneging on the implementation of Resolution 1 of 2018, while watching the elite benefiting from the proceeds of corruption through PPE tenders and supply of other Covid-19 essentials," said Saphetha.

READ | Nehawu to Ramaphosa: Stop showering frontline workers with empty words - they need more PPEs

On Monday, workers will be flocking to their employers' offices to apply for a leave day on Tuesday.

This would be followed by lunch-hour pickets from Monday to Thursday.


"On 28 August, it will be Siyahlala Day of Action whereby all workers across all sectors, we organise, shall be observing lockdown as they are no longer feeling safe at their workplaces by staying at home and not going to work. This will be followed by a work-to-rule campaign by all members across all sectors on 31 August.

"This as part of showing recognition to the good work and sacrifice demonstrated by frontline workers in saving the lives of South Africans at the expense of their own.

"The union will encourage all motorists to hoot in support of the frontline workers on 1 and 2 September, while the union will be having motorcades across the country going workplace to workplace saluting and thanking all frontline workers for their contribution done so far," said Saphetha.

National day of action

On 3 September, Nehawu will embark on a national day of action by demonstrating across all provinces where memorandums will be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and all premiers.

"Failure to receive favourable responses to our demands, on 10 September, we will completely withdraw our labour, unfortunately, it will be at the peak of this virus.

"Nehawu is more than convinced that this is the right moment to take a firm stand against the exploitation of our members and workers, austerity measures and the maximisation of profits at the expense of the blood and sweat of workers," said Saphetha.

The union promised to provide masks and sanitisers to its members who would be participating in the strike.

Saphetha added physical distancing and the regulation on the gathering of 50 people would be adhered to.

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