Community health workers take health department to court

Community health workers take health department to courtA community health worker rides a bike during his rounds in the North West NHI pilot district, Dr Kenneth Kaunda. (File Photo)

At least 400 Gauteng community health workers are suing the Gauteng Department of Health after they allege the department violated labour law when it asked them to re-apply for their jobs without notice.

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In 2013, Tshwane community health workers went on strike due to lack of payment. Now Gauteng community health workers allege the health department violated labour laws when it advertised their jobs.
In 2013, Tshwane community health workers went on strike due to lack of payment. Now Gauteng community health workers allege the health department violated labour laws when it advertised their jobs.

Dozens of community health care workers recently gathered outside the Johannesburg Labour Court as lawyers for the department and health workers pleaded their cases. Represented by lawyers from Werksmans Attorneys, community health workers are alleging the department violated labour law when advertised their jobs in early January without notice.

Subsequently, workers allege the department told them to re-apply for their jobs and that only some workers would be hired back, according to a letter sent by workers’ attorneys to Head of Gauteng Department of Health Dr Barney Selebano.

Health workers are now demanding that the Gauteng Department of Health rescind calls for health workers to re-apply for jobs and commit to keeping all current community heath workers employed by 18 February.

“As we stand here, some of us are going to lose their jobs as the department has told us to re apply for our jobs as they are in the process of employing new workers from outside,” said William Mokoena who is part of the community health worker forum, the Gauteng Community Health Care Forum.

Mokoena added that many community health workers relied on their monthly stipends to feed their families. He added that many workers were surprised when they were told that they had to re-apply for their posts.

Gauteng Community Health Care Forum Chairperson Zoleka Mbotshelwa alleged that the department has already stated it will not re-hire community health workers who do not have not completed Grade 9.

“The department doesn’t care about us and the trainings and the certificates they have provided to us,” she said. “They just told us that if we don’t have Grade 9, we must forget about our jobs.”

“We actually don’t understand the criteria they are using to recruit,” said Mbotshelwa, who added that after years of being outsourced through nongovernmental organisations, community health workers continue to demand permanent employment with the department.

Gauteng Department of Health Spokesperson Steve Mabona declined to comment on the issue because the matter remains before the court. Judgement in the case is expected later this week. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story also appeared in The Star newspaper.