This is a fight we are not prepared to lose - NEHAWU

Union says fight it has waged in NWest should serve as a warning to other employers


Tuesday May 8, 2018

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] convened a shopstewards council yesterday to make concrete assessment of the current strike at both the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health in the North West Province.

The strike at social development has been ongoing for the past four months and at the health department it has been ongoing for the past three months. Both strike actions have been unnecessarily protracted due to the sheer arrogance and intransigence of the provincial government. Their unwillingness to concede to workers’ demands have left the public without services and further pushed both departments to a total state of disarray. It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the provincial government does not care about the people they are tasked to look after. Our people are being let down by the very same government they have voted in.

Throughout the strike action we have continuously availed ourselves and made means to find common ground with the employer. Instead of engaging us with a view to end the impasse the employer has consistently elected to address us through the media. This further infuriated workers who viewed this as an insult and a total disregard for their genuine and reasonable demands. 

We welcome the intervention by national government including the invoking of section 100 of the constitution to put both treasury and the health department under administration and the appointment of the interministerial team. We applaud the President of the Republic for prioritising our issues while the provincial government chose to peddle lies about the current crisis that is currently engulfing the province.

As things stand, we are working with the interministerial team to find lasting solutions to the crisis in both sectors. A series of meetings are scheduled for later today with the interministerial team, the Director General of the national health department and the leadership of the health department in the province to receive a progress report on the matters discussed in the meeting with the President.

We are currently engaging our members about the possibility of allowing a skeleton staff to begin with the distribution of medicine pending the outcomes of the progress report to be tabled to us. Our view is that this strike action has been protracted unnecessarily and lasting solutions would have to be found as soon as possible to return everything to normalcy. The community can no longer suffer and be denied medical care in public health institutions. We are concerned about patients who are on chronic medication who have not been able to receive their medication due to the non-delivery of drugs from the drugs depot.

Once again we want to clarify that the strike action did not disrupt the dispensation of drugs as the stores were already short of drugs before we undertook the strike action. The paralysis of the department should be blamed for the shortage of drugs and our members have been at the forefront of raising alarm about the stores facing shortages. The HIV/AIDS grant was not used for its purpose which is against the Public Finance Management Act [PFMA] and this had led to the shortages of drugs thus putting the lives of many in jeopardy. We invite the Treatment Action Campaign [TAC] to work with us in addressing this matter with the vigour it deserves.

As NEHAWU, we are more than willing and looking forward to resolving the impasse. We recognise the need for exemplary leadership that will provide lasting solutions to the current crisis. While we note the progress made in the Department of Health we however note the silence on the issues we have raised at the Department of Social Development. The fact that it was not put in administration is a course for concern for us.

Our National Executive Committee [NEC] meeting resolved that we must begin to mobilize for a national day of action on the 16thMay 2018 and subsequently a public servants two day stay away in the province if no substantive progress is registered. The national union will extend the action to all provinces across the country as a solidarity to North West NEHAWU members and workers in general if the impasse is not resolved.

This is a fight we are not prepared to lose and we are willing to fight until the bitter end in defense of our members. Decent salaries and improved working conditions for our members will always remain a top priority for the national union. The fight we have waged in this province should serve as a warming to other employers who don’t treat our members with dignity and disregards their genuine demands. 

Statement issued by NEHAWU Secretariat, 8 May 2018