About 50 health workers in Limpopo, including nurses and doctors, engaged in a picket during lunch time at Mankweng Hospital yesterday as the threat of a sector-wide strike continues to loom large.
The workers are threatening to down tools after the Limpopo Department of Health imposed Circular 17 and 18 of 2021, which will force the implementation of standardised rosters.
This, according to the workers, would be contrary to what was agreed with unions, that managers and supervisors would consult with employees before drafting rosters.
The health workers are claiming that the standardised roster will ignore the institutional circumstances and will take away the flexibility of the doctors.
Early this month unions were threatening massive strike action over circular 43 of 2020, which has since been suspended after an agreement between unions and the department. The circular had to do with shift changes.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, Public Servants Association provincial secretary, John Teffo, confirmed that health workers were threatening strike action despite the unions trying to avoid it.
“The employer suspended circular 43 of 2020 and 4 of 2021, but subsequently issued circular 17 and 18 of 2021, which unfortunately implements the same thing.
“Workers are very angry and prepared to go on a full-blown strike and shut down the health service in Limpopo, but as unions we are trying to avert that. But we are calling on the MEC (Phophi Ramathuba) to provide leadership,” Teffo said.
He accused the department’s head, Thokozani Mhlongo, of failing to create a conducive working environment to allow for a optimum work environment, and instead working against the spirit of the Labour Relations Act which promotes labour peace.
“We are disappointed at the head of department and director-general for consistent disregard of labour as a social partner and for ruling the department with an iron fist.
“Recently, managers were invited to a meeting and were threatened with a disciplinary hearing in the case that they failed to attend, despite the meeting being called on short notice,” he added.
In a joint statement by Limpopo health sector unions on the outcomes of consultations with the department over circular 43 of 2020 and 4 of 2021, they blamed blamed Mhlongo for the potential strike action.
The statement read in parts: “Organised labour noticed with utmost disgust to learn that the head of department lied to both the MEC and workers when she said the shift rosters will be drafted by managers
at the facility levels in consultation with their fellow subordinates for purposes of accommodate the needs of both the community and family responsibilities of workers (sic).”
Provincial Department of Health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana confirmed that the pickets had begun regarding the circulars, but declined to comment on the labour organisations’ accusations.
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