Skills allowance proves problematic

My name is Fikile Majola. I’€™m General Secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, NEHAWU’€¦ I must say that the scarce skills and rural allowance agreement was a necessary intervention. But by way of implementation has caused serious problems of discrimination, and therefore, a lot of unhappiness amongst health professionals. And we think this is something that has to be reviewed’€¦ In fact, it has to be terminated so that what’€™ we’€™re dealing with is the overall improvement of the remuneration of health workers’€¦ When they are paid properly you don’€™t have to introduce piece-meal mechanisms such as scarce skills’€¦ Most of the nurses who work in these critical areas, such as ICU’€¦ are actually nurses who are not trained and qualified, but they work there. They are competent to carry out the work. But it is those who have certificates who benefit. And that has created a problem’€¦

KHOPOTSO: Why did the unions agree to the intervention in the first place?

FIKILE MAJOLA: Look, we were facing a difficult situation. We had had to respond to the flight. When a proposal was made that money would be allocated to try to arrest the flight of skills from the public service, obviously, unions had to be receptive to that because it was an intervention to try and deal with the problem immediately. And we thought that it was a good idea, at least, as an interim intervention. But the way we went about implementing it we think that it has caused more problems than it has attempted to resolve’€¦ In hindsight, it is quite clear that it was not a correct intervention because of problems of applicability and that it doesn’€™t cover all health care professionals and other workers.

My name is Ruth Kgesa. I’€™m one of the chief professional nurses’€¦ It was for certain areas, not every nurse, that’€™s how we understand it. It’€™s only for people that are working in theatre, intensive care unit and also, oncology, if I’€™m not mistaken’€¦ It’€™s only those people that are entitled to it. They are working in the area and they’€™ve got certificates’€¦

To me that one becomes unfair because the very nurse that is in ICU and does not have a certificate is looking after those patients’€¦ But now because she doesn’€™t have the qualification, but she is experienced, she does not get the scarce-skills (allowance). To me it was not a fair deal.            

I’€™m Dr Nandi Diliza. I work for the Gauteng Health Department. My position is that of Director: Hospitals and Specialised Programmes’€¦ This thing was decided in Pretoria and organised labour was part of these discussions. And an agreement was reached that people who will qualify for the scarce skills allowance are people with actual certificates. It does create a problem because you’€™ve got a nurse who has been working in theatre for 20 years, but unfortunately our people have not been having a culture of studying and getting qualifications. That is a problem. Some of them are dissatisfied with that.

And we are encouraging them to spend a bit of time and get qualifications so that they can get the allowance’€¦ It was done, negotiated and agreed upon at the central bargaining forums.      

KHOPOTSO: The national Department of Health said in a statement that it is convinced that the provision of scarce skills allowances is a useful measure to attract and retain health workers in the public health sector.

E-mail Khopotso Bodibe

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