Doctors were angered by government’s failure to implement an ‘occupational specific dispensation’ (OSD) increase promised in July last year.
Government doctors are being underpaid by between 50 and 75 percent underpaid, according to a study by the SA Medical Association (SAMA).
In a joint statement released last night the health department and SAMA said government had agreed to withdraw all doctor dismissals and replace them with final written warnings for involvement in an unprotected illegal strike. However, the ‘No Work No Pay’ principle would apply as it does in all strike actions, the statement said.
A total of 335 letters of dismissal were issued to doctors at Dr George Mukhari Hospital while 50 doctors working in hospitals in the North West also received the letters.
Dr Mpho Mohlala, chairperson of the Disgruntled Doctors’ Forum said negotiations with government had started immediately when the protest action took place.
‘Doctors have been under-paid for some time. It reached a point where nurses were earning more than doctors when the government approved Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) salaries for them. Government admitted that this was a mistake,’ claimed Mohlala.
The average nett pay for a junior doctor is between R8 800 and R9000 while a specialist takes home between R18 000 and R19 000 per month.
‘This has been unacceptable. A chief specialist who is at the level of a judge takes far less than what a judge takes home. A judge also has a travel allowance, while a chief specialist has to use his own car and can’t make any claims,’ said Mohlala.
Mohlala explained that doctors would be represented at the bargaining council meeting by nurses’ union Denosa as doctors do not have the 50 000 numbers needed to be afforded representation at the council.
Dr Malatji Rapitsi who works at Dr George Mukhari Hospital said the health department had acknowledged that the delay in the implementation of the OSD and the tabling of the proposal on new salaries could have angered the doctors who believed that the government was not taking them seriously.
‘The strike was illegal, but it was valid and based on principle,’ said Rapitsi, who also participated in the strike.
Prior to the strike action doctors demanded that:
– salaries should be on par with other professionals, as required by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA);
– the OSD should be back-dated to be the 1st of July. It should have been implemented last July, but that did not happen;
– OSD negotiations commence immediately in the bargaining council;
– vacant posts be filled immediately;
– creation of safe and improved working conditions and well-resourced environments.
Doctors have previously demanded that the first three conditions get an immediate response.
The parties have now recommitted themselves to the negotiation process currently underway in the Bargaining Chamber.
The Department of Health and SAMA said it would like to see urgent progress towards the implementation of the OSD for doctors, dentists, pharmacists and emergency medical services personnel
The joint statement said doctors have for now agreed to return to work and committed to following proper channels to address future problems.