Community health workers continue with picket

17 May 2016 - 15:48 By Bongani Nkosi

The main entrance of the Department of Health in Pretoria has remained shut for a second consecutive day‚ as hundreds of community health workers continue with their picket.About a hundred protesting workers slept at the entrance overnight‚ ensuring it was not open in the morning.All the department's employees are gaining entry through a gate for vehicles.The protesting workers are vowing to sustain their picket until the department supplies them with a proper response to a memorandum of demands they handed over to its senior officials following a march on May 3.These are home-based caregivers and lay counsellors who have been volunteering for many years‚ some since 1998. They are demanding to be employed directly and permanently by the department.Led by the National Union of Public and Allied Workers (Nupsaw)‚ the community healthcare workers demanded in their May 3 memorandum that the department responds in seven days.But the department has not responded substantially to the demands. Instead‚ according to its spokesman Joe Maila‚ it forwarded the memorandum to the Gauteng Health Department.Maila told Sowetan this was because they felt most of the issues it raised were a responsibility of the department.“It is not completely incorrect to suggest that we have not done our part with it. We were surprised [yesterday] when they came‚” said Maila.“I don't know why [they came here].”Seemingly using this argument‚ the department continued to snub the workers on Tuesday.But Zandile Msimango‚ from the Gauteng Intervention for Community Health Workers‚ an organisation that has joined forces with Nupsaw for the strike‚ said they are protesting at the right place.“We're not lost. We've come to the right office. We went to central office and had discussions‚ which failed. The central office refused to respond to our demands for permanent employment‚” Msimango told Sowetan.“So we decided to come here‚ because this is where everything must re-directed. Here they are supposed to give a directive to the central office to say what they are doing is out [of order].”TMG Digital/Sowetan

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