The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) has forged ahead with its strike despite the Labour Court ruling that it is unlawful.

The strike action has hit the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS). Workers say their work environment is unsafe. They also want an 11% annual salary increment. Earlier this month, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that 240 healthcare workers succumbed to Covid-19. This has fuelled the union’s demands for proper personal protective equipment.

NEHAWU spokesperson, Khaya Xaba, says the union has just under 5000 workers who are employed by the NHLS.

Strike impacting services

In a statement, the NHLS says that the strike action will impact the number of Covid-19 tests that are conducted in the public sector.

“If the strike is not averted, South Africans will not know the number of COVID-19 infections in the country which could negatively affect the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic. The government will have limited or no information regarding where the relevant hotspots for COVID-19 are; private laboratories would not be able to report their COVID-19 infections as required by the relevant Disaster Management Regulations,” the statement reads.

The NHLS says that it will not be able to compile a guideline document to support surveillance, case finding, diagnosis, management and public health response to cases under investigation. This will lead to the possibility of many South Africans being unable to get tested for COVID-19.

However, the national lab says that it has put in place contingency measures to ensure services not disrupted. It has also engaged private and academic laboratories to assist with diagnostic testing and will compile an essential test list for priority testing.

NEHAWU was not available for comment at the time for publication.