Our members are refusing to enter unsafe buildings – NEHAWU

Union says due to pressure it has exerted, govt has started to relocate workers

NEHAWU update on the state of government buildings and relocations

12 September 2018

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] has been busy with processes to protect its members and workers from working in unsafe government buildings since the fire that broke out at the Bank of Lisbon Building in the Johannesburg CBD.

Last week we called on all our members to not go to work in unsafe buildings especially in the 8 buildings [Namely 30 Simmonds, 75 Fox, Perm Building, Thusanong Building, Corner House, Sage Building, ABSA building, and the Bank of Lisbon Building] which were deemed unsafe in the Johannesburg CBD and the Civitas building in Pretoria which houses the National Department of Health. Our members heeded our call and refrained from entering such premises.

Subsequently, due to pressure exerted by the national union, government started with relocation plans. However, government tried to process the relocations without any consultation with NEHAWU. We met with government on Monday night 10th September 2018 to vent our anger at the unilateral implantation of the relocations. The meeting agreed on a task team to work on the deployments of staff into temporary facilities. Six areas were identified where staff who perform critical core functions will be relocated to temporarily. This is to ensure that there is minimal disruptions to service delivery. This afternoon the national union and the employer will view two of those temporary sites at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Nursing College and the Ann Latsky College.

The national union will this afternoon write to the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura, to ask him to appoint a team that will handle the issue of relocations. As NEHAWU, we believe that relocations should be handled centrally and not by individual government departments. We hope that government will move with speed to process the issue of relocations as it might have an adverse effect on the functioning of government services.

As NEHAWU, we are extremely unhappy with the inability to shoulder the blame for the state of the Civitas Building by the Minister of Public Works. The department is responsible for maintaining government buildings and ensuring that they comply with health and safety standards. Therefore, we call on the Minister to stop shifting the blame and accept responsibility for the hazardous state of the building. The national union refuses to be blindsided by accusations of trying to burn the building by the Guptas and remnants of the state capture project.

The building has been non-compliant with Occupational Health and Safety Standards since 2015. NEHAWU did raise the fact that carbon dioxide in the building was at 80% which is not safe for workers and clients visiting the building and nothing was done to remedy the situation. Constant implorations by our members for management to act on the precarious state of the building fell on deaf ears. In this regard, we call on the Minister to stop creating a smoke screen and deal with his department’s inability to maintain buildings. His department has the paramount responsibility of ensuring that government buildings are safe and that they don’t pose any health hazards.

The national union will apply for a declaratory order to declare the Civitas Building unsafe and will also file papers tomorrow for an interdict to stop government from applying the no work no pay principle while workers are not entering these unsafe buildings. Both these matters will be heard at the labour court next week Wednesday. Our legal team is also busy with lawsuits for damages for our two shopstewards who were suspended for highlighting the hazardous state of the Bank of Lisbon Building.

Issued by Khaya Xaba, Media Liaison, NEHAWU, 12 September 2018