The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] convened this press conference to brief both the media and the public on the strike in North West province and the crisis at the South African Social Security Agency [SASSA].
The national union vows to intensify the current ongoing strike action in North West government because of the intransigence and heightened levels of arrogance displayed by the provincial government. Instead of engaging the union on the current impasse they elected to engage us through the media thus prolonging the strike unnecessarily. Our members and workers are highly agitated by the way the provincial government has handled their demands and the subsequent strike. Their actions prove beyond reasonable doubt that they do not care about workers nor do they care about the millions who rely to government services.
As NEHAWU, we will not back down until all our demands are met and the provincial government gives us clear timelines on when the necessary changes will be effected. We hold a strong view that our demands are reasonable and that if left unresolved will lead to the total collapse of the government system in the province, a situation we had hoped will be avoided.
The national union vehemently rejects the slanted narrative that the current crisis in the public healthcare system is because of the current strike action. Before the commencement of the strike action the department was already confronted by challenges of lack of medication, lack of linen and bedding, lack of proper meals for patients, lack of medical equipment, overworked staff as a result of staff shortages, premature deaths of patients, and long queues in healthcare institutions. The communities were affected by these challenges way before the strike and some of these challenges are the reason we decided to embark on a strike action.
We have noted the utterances made by the troubled Premier in relation to the permanent absorption of Community Health Workers into the Department of Health. As NEHAWU, we want to inform the public that this is a total misrepresentation of facts and that the fight by the Union in 2016 for the absorption of CHWs stopped because the wife of the premier was part of the NGO beneficiaries who were supposed to handle the payments of stipends of the CHWs. This is one of the many reasons why the Premier has always hated NEHAWU because we have always been on the forefront of fighting the looting of government resources by greedy politicians.
The national union further notes the victimisation of our members who have taken it upon themselves to blow the whistle on the massive corruption that has been taking place in the department and are flexing their muscles by charging those who have any incriminatory information. In this regard, we demand that charges against all whistle-blowers in the department be withdrawn and that corruption allegations raised by Mr Itumeleng Mogorosi and others be investigated and the guilty parties be brought to book. As a transformative Union, we will never allow ourselves to be silenced and to co-exist with corruption wherever we are organising and we will defend our members whenever they raise alarms on corruption irrespective whether perpetrators are administrators, politicians or even workers.
We applaud the communities of North West province for standing up for proper service delivery from the provincial government they voted in. We fully support the call for the Premier to resign as we believe that the crisis in the Department of Health took place under his nose and that it is impossible not to be aware of the gross corruption taking place in the department. However, we are opposed to any violence and vandalism of property. Communities have a right to hold accountable the people they voted into power and to ensure that the deliver on the promises they made before elections.
As NEHAWU, we view the deployment of the army into the healthcare facilities as an insult to collective bargaining. Instead of engaging the union on its demands the department elects to gloss over the problems that engulfs the public healthcare sector in the province. The deployment of the army is not a permanent solution and at some point the department would have to engage NEHAWU with a view to end the impasse.
In this regard, the union calls upon the provincial government to return to negotiating table as the failure will mean that communities will be without basic healthcare services for much longer. At this point, we want to inform the public that the national union has written a letter to the Office of Presidency of the Republic of South Africa specifically asking the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa to give us an audience regarding matters resulted into the impasse in North West province in order to find the lasting solution(s) before it’s too late.
The national union condemns with the contempt it deserves the victimisation and intimidation of our members at the South African Social Security Agency [SASSA]. Our members and workers have been forced to perform duties outside their scope of work as SASSA begins to phase out the illegal and invalid Cash Paymaster Services [CPS]. Members and workers who refuse to perform these duties which include the Biometric Enrolment of Beneficiaries are threatened with letters of suspension.
Furthermore, our members were tricked into believing that they were attending a Biometric Identity Access and Management workshop only to find out that they were being trained to perform Biometric Enrolment of beneficiaries which were we not consulted as NEHAWU. The training should have not taken place considering that the new function they are forced to perform has an adverse impact on their condition of service.
The employer reiterated the lie we were consulted and that labour requested the training the Biometric Enrolment of Beneficiaries. On the 20th April 2018 at the SASSA National Bargaining Forum the employer was proven wrong where both labour and employer listen to the recordings of the meeting of the 31st October 2017 which the employer alleged that they consulted with labour on the matter. The recordings proved that we were never consulted and we never requested the training. The meeting was on the presentation made by the employer on Biometric Identity access and management for staff. The recording also proved that we requested a project plan of what impact the training is going to have on our members. Furthermore, in the meeting of the 13th February 2018 the bargaining forum requested a human resource plan that will speak to the impact that the migration from CPS to SAPO will have on any prospective change on the condition of service of our members. The employer promised to provide the plan on the 16th February 2018, and that never took place.
This demonstrates the problematic attitude that SASSA management under the Acting CEO, Ms Pearl Bhengu continues to impose, which undermines the Labour Relations Act [as amended] and the SASSA National Bargaining Forum.
The national union notes the misleading letter supposedly written to the General Secretary by the acting CEO but sent to SASSA centres across the country creating a false impression that NEHAWU has been addressed in relation to all its concerns with intentions to silence NEHAWU members. Unfortunately, the said letter was responding to NEHAWU internal communication as it was not directed to the acting SASSA CEO. We regard this act as interference with NEHAWU operations which she had no business with. In this regard, the national union will not fold its arms and watch this valuable institution to the working class being destroyed and also victimising members and workers in the agency through acts of arrogance and intransigent leadership.
As NEHAWU, we will not fold our arms while our members are made to pay for the blunders of former Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, and he cronies who did everything in their power to keep the illegal and invalid CPS contact in place. On numerous occasion the Constitutional court invited the former minister to show cause for why she should not be held personally accountable for her role in the social grants crisis.
We therefore, call on SASSA to desist from these dishonest tactics and properly engage the union to ensure operations run smooth and that there is labour peace at the agency. Failure to heed this call will leave us with no option but to go on a strike action which might affect more 17 million social grant recipients. Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968;December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU Media Liaison Officer) at 082 455 2500 or email: email@example.com Visit NEHAWU website: www.nehawu.org.za