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Sun Apr 30 05:11:05 SAST 2017

End to Nehawu strike on cards

TASCHICA PILLAY, ROXANNE HENDERSON and ERNEST MABUZA | 2017-03-23 06:29:39.0
Nehawu spokesman Khaya Xaba said negotiations with the department ended yesterday afternoon, with an offer from the employer on the table. File photo
Image by: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Mohau Mofokeng

Negotiations between the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union and the Department of Social Development have been wrapped up, prompting hopes the trade union's national strike may soon end.

The strike, which began on March 13, has had far-reaching effects.

In KwaZulu-Natal, volunteers have been roped in to assist at child and youth care centres, while sentencing procedures in a case in the Johannesburg High Court had to be postponed yesterday because of missing reports from striking social workers.

Social Development Department employees are demanding better working conditions and also salary increases.

Nehawu spokesman Khaya Xaba said negotiations with the department ended yesterday afternoon, with an offer from the employer on the table.

The trade union will discuss the offer with its members and decide whether to continue the strike.

"We are reconvening at 2pm [on Thursday]. We will decide whether to accept the offer," Xaba said.

KwaZulu-Natal Social Development Department spokesman Ncumisa Ndelu said yesterday there had been disruptions at its centres. "Child and youth care centres are classified as rendering an essential service so, by law, strikes there are not protected.

"We have roped in people who have been trained and work in the community to help in the centres with activities," she said.

Sipho Msimango, chairman of the Thokoza Kids and Youth Organisation, said they had helped find volunteers.

"Our concern is the rights of the children. Our concern now is the transportation of children from one of the facilities to school.

"Striking workers are also not allowing services like food deliveries onto the property," said Msimango.

Meanwhile, Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza has called for calm following the death of a six-month-old child who was transferred from a government facility in the wake of strike action.

The Nehawu strike has been blamed for the death of six-month-old Singalakha Sonamazi.

The child, who was diagnosed with foetal alcohol syndrome and was born underweight, was among the 90 moved from Walter Sisulu Centre in Soweto.

Mayathula-Khoza said Singalakha had been placed at the Bethany Trust child and youth care centre, where her health had reportedly improved.

However, shortly before 5am on Tuesday a care worker noticed the baby close her eyes and stop moving. CPR was administered but the infant died a few hours later.

Striking workers have barricaded entrances at government facilities, locking non-striking workers in and preventing essential supplies like food and medication from being taken in.

The sentencing of four people convicted of 14451 counts related to electricity theft was postponed yesterday because probation reports from social workers could not be handed to the court.

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