Healthcare services in the public sector appeared to return to normal on Tuesday morning. This follows a Labour Appeal Court order ending NEHAWU’s strike as it entered its second week on Monday. Health Minister Joe Phaahla warned striking healthcare workers who did not return to work on Tuesday will face disciplinary action, including dismissal.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) strike disrupted health facilities around the country. Workers wanted a 10 percent increase but the government offered them a 4.7 percent wage increase.
Strike caused untold suffering
On Monday, the Labour Appeal Court put an end to the strike, ordering workers immediately back to work. However, the department gave workers until Tuesday morning to return. The minister warned healthcare workers who failed to comply would be in contempt of court and will face misconduct charges.
“There is no doubt that the strike has disrupted the provision of essential healthcare services in the country, leading to untold suffering and frustrations amongst the public who desperately needed healthcare and life-saving treatment,” says Phaahla.
The minister says the Labour Relations Act prohibits essential services workers from “engaging in disruptive industrial action which is detrimental to healthcare services with a risk of loss of life”. He added it’s inconceivable that NEHAWU leadership were oblivious to the provisions of the law in this regard.
‘No work, no pay’
“It is regrettable that this strike action has gone on causing untold hardship, pain, frustration and possible loss of life in its cause while it could have been avoided.”
He added that anyone who committed any criminal acts in pursuit of the strike action will face criminal proceedings. Managers have also been instructed to apply the ‘no work, no pay’ principle with immediate effect.
“We would like to apologise to all South Africans who have had pain, humiliation and suffering due to the strike,” says Phaahla.
Meanwhile, NEHAWU spokesperson Lwazi Nkolonzi says the union lawyers are still studying the court judgement. “We are still going through the court judgement, and we will be communicating a way forward to our members. We urge all our structures and members to act within the framework of this court order,” says Nkolonzi.