National strike of Community Health Workers – NEHAWU

Union demands that all CHWs workers across the country are appointed permanently

NEHAWU is currently preparing for a national strike of Community Health Workers

21 October 2020

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union [NEHAWU] is currently preparing for a national strike of Community Healthcare Workers [CHWs].

On the 9th October 2020 the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council [PHSDSBC] issued NEHAWU with a certificate of non-resolution for a dispute of mutual interest which arose on the 17th July 2020 after the National Department of Health failed to absorb Community Healthcare Workers on a permanent basis in line with Clause 5.5 of PHSDSBC Resolution 1 of 2018 read with PHSDSBC Resolution 2 of 2019.

This certificate gives the national union the right to embark on a protected strike action to demand that all Community Health Workers in all provinces across the country are appointed permanently by the National Department of Health. The strike action by Community Healthcare Workers will form part of the broader strike by the national union for the betterment of working conditions and payment of salary increases including the implementation of PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 especially clause 3.3.

On the 22nd October 2020 the national union will notify the National Department of Health about the balloting process for the strike. The balloting process will take place from the 26th October 2020 and conclude on the 6th November 2020 in all workplaces were Community Health Workers operate. NEHAWU will in the meantime intensify the mobilisation of these workers including our members and workers in the public service for a big fight in defence of collective bargaining and the reversal of the gains of workers. To this end, we will strengthen our lunch hour pickets while National Office Bearers [NOBs], Provincial Office Bearers [POBs] and Regional Office Bearers [ROBs] will be visiting workplaces to galvanise support for the success of the strike action.

Community Healthcare Workers have been exploited and undermined by the employer while they continue to selflessly provide healthcare services even under very harsh conditions and most of the time with no proper working tools. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country has proven beyond reasonable doubt that our healthcare system especially in the rural areas and townships needs the services of these workers as they were at the forefront of the mass screening and testing that took place since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

The refusal by the Department of Health to permanently employ these workers is a clear indication that the employer in this case the department and government as a whole are hell-bent in attacking collective bargaining and reversing the hard-won gains of workers. Recently, we have observed a concerted effort by our government to undermine outcomes of collective agreements and if this is not immediately averted it will set a bad precedence which will prompt other employers to renege on binding agreements willy-nilly. In this regard, NEHAWU will intensify its campaign which is underpinned by our national programme of action which seeks to defend its members and workers from exploitative and reckless employers.

The national union will do anything in its powers to ensure that Community Health Workers are employed permanently and that they are paid at salary level 3 with all other benefits that are enjoyed by other public servants.  This is a fight we are not prepared to lose and we are prepared to hold the bull by the horns and sleep with the hyena for the full-time employment of these workers including the implementation of all outstanding collective bargaining agreements.

Issued by Khaya Xaba, NEHAWU Secretariat, 21 October 2020