Reports and pictures circulating in social media show people in union regalia running amok on the hospital’s premises turning trash bins upside down and threatening non-striking workers. This action continued over several days, severely hampered the normal operation at the hospital.

Although Nehawu has distanced itself from the violence, they have received little sympathy from the public following last week’s destruction of Mahikeng town in North West through similar actions by   Nehawu members.

“Definitely those were not our members. We told our members to uphold the highest standard of discipline possible to win this battle. As you would know, Nehawu was not the only union protesting so it can’t be correct that our members were behind the violence that erupted at the strike. Some criminal elements came there to take advantage of the situation,” said Gracia Rikhotso, Deputy Secretary of Nehawu in Gauteng.

Overtime allowance

Central to the demands that led to their strike action, Rikhotso said, was non-payment of overtime, bonuses and unfilled vacancies.

“We have workers who according to their scores have reached the level of being paid bonuses, but now management is telling us there is no money,” she said, adding that the department had issued them with a court interdict to halt the strike.

“We have resolved to respect the court order and suspend the strike while our lawyers are advising us on the next course of action. We are happy, but the strike was the warning shot.”

Health department spokesperson, Lesemang Matuka confirmed the strike was violent and the court interdict was issued.

“We respect the workers’ rights to engage in peaceful protest but damaging state property and acts of intimidation cannot be tolerated. Staff and patients’ safety is important to the department hence the department obtained a court interdict to prevent a continuation of vandalism and threats to workers, patients and community members,” Matuka said.

He added that both department and union leaders met to discuss peaceful mechanisms of addressing issues while calm and order was restored at the hospital.

Treatment Action Campaign’s Tshepo Maboe also lashed at violent acts, saying that while workers’ rights to strike and access to fair bargaining council held a special place in the constitution of the country, no person or union is entitled to exercise this right in a violent manner.  

“As TAC we don’t support such behaviour but we are in solidarity with workers in all forms of their struggles that do not involve trampling on the constitution or human rights laws,” he said.  – Health-e News.