Union Nehawu is planning to strike this week, saying a Friday picket was a “warning shot” to government.

On Friday afternoon workers at the National Health Laboratory Service embarked on a lunch hour picket to raise concerns about  health and safety working conditions. The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union said the picket was their “ launching pad” as it plans a full-blown strike next week.

Workers are demanding adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), active involvement of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Committees at workplaces and, psychosocial support, the union’s spokesperson Khaya Xaba says.

Workers also want a “solidarity incentive for the patriotic contribution made by frontline workers,” says Xaba.

Planned strike action

Nehawu members will from Tuesday go on leave while lunch hour pickets will continue until 27 August. The union is planning a stay-away the following day.

“The 28th August 2020 will be Siyahlala Day of Action, whereby all workers across all sectors we organise shall be observing lockdown as they are no longer feeling safe at their workplaces by staying at home and not going to work,” the union said in a statement.

This will be followed by a work-to-rule campaign by  members across all sectors on 31 August, in which workers will do the minimum required. The union is also asking motorists to hoot in support of frontline workers on 1 and 2 September

Xaba says the strike action will affect  testing capacity at the NHLS and leave other facilities short-staffed.

National PPE stock

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize says government is committed to securing the health, safety and wellbeing of all frontline health care workers.

“The health and safety of healthcare workers is a priority for the Minister of Health and the health and safety of healthcare workers is also being monitored through reporting at the National Health Council and Technical National Health Council,” Mkhize said in a statement on Friday.

The national department of health says that the provision of PPE for healthcare workers is monitored through a digital system. Provinces report on their stock levels of PPE on a daily basis in real-time. Mkhize says this is why his department has always asserted that there is enough stock available. Instead, the shortages experienced are likely due to distribution challenges.

“As a doctor myself, I can never be detached from the experiences, concerns, hopes and aspirations of my colleagues. Our health care workers are the pulse of the Covid-19 response and therefore it is not only our duty but our imperative to protect our frontline workers at all times. I wish to assure my colleagues of our continued commitment to constantly engage and co-operate to find lasting solutions for a healthy workforce.” – Health-e News