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

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  • Nehawu has criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa for not speaking on the urgent need for PPEs.
  • It says the main worry is that the number of infected frontline workers is still increasing on a daily basis.
  • The union adds that the government should focus on improving the health and safety of workers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's speech on Saturday evening did not speak to the urgent need to procure more personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) says. 

Nehawu's general-secretary Zola Saphetha was reacting to the announcement by Ramaphosa that the country would be moving to Level 2 of the lockdown on Tuesday. 

The union said it is encouraging that the recovery rate has risen to above 80% and new infections are decreasing, but "we hope this announcement does not breed complacency".

Saphetha said the union's main worry was that the number of infected frontline workers is still increasing on a daily basis.

READ: Government has taken decisive action against Covid-19 corruption Ramaphosa-claim

According to the health department, as of 4 August, 27 360 frontline workers had been infected, while 240 workers had died from the virus.  

The most affected workers are nurses, with 14 143 infections, followed by doctors at 1 644 infections.

"The main reason behind these horrible numbers is the lack of sufficient PPE, non-compliance to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and under-staffing - as revealed in our fact-finding mission report.

"The speech by the president did not speak to the urgent need to procure more PPEs, including centralising procurement as part of stopping the corruption that has robbed many frontline workers of the much-needed PPEs.

"Government needs to be seen dealing decisively with corruption and those found to have benefitted from the outbreak of the virus must face the long arm of the law." 

Saphetha added:

"Every time the president makes these speeches he emphasises government's appreciation of the role played by frontline workers in saving the lives of our people. However, appreciation without any improvement into the working conditions of our members and workers, including their salaries, is just empty rhetoric."

He also said Ramaphosa was aware that frontline workers had not been paid their salary increase, which was due on 1 April, and that the health department had not yet given a mandate to the departmental negotiators at both bargaining councils.

"A caring government would not shower workers with empty words, but would focus on improving their health and safety in the workplace, including improving their remuneration as part of boosting their morale.

"While government continues to pay less attention to the health and safety of workers, we will continue to implement our programme of action aimed at protecting and defending workers against Covid-19.

"As Nehawu, we are steaming ahead with the mobilisation of all our members, in all sectors we organise, in order to send a clear message that the health and safety of workers is of paramount importance and that collective bargaining agreements are sacrosanct."

He added that the labour department must come to the party to enforce compliance to the regulations and guidelines.

"It can no longer be a spectator while workers are infected on a daily basis by reckless employers." 

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