NEHAWU Demands That The Department Of Health Comply With OHS ACT During COVID-19 Disaster
Monday March 30, 2020
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] has written to the Minister of Health, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, to demand that the Department of Health complies with the Occupational Health and Safety Act; 1993 [as amended] during the COVID-19 disaster.
In the wake of this public health emergency, amongst others NEHAWU expected that government would use the Disaster Management Act in order to enable the following:
- An integrated and coordinated disaster management measures that focuses on preventing or reducing the risk, mitigate the severity of the disaster, undertake emergency preparedness, rapid and effective responses
- Establish national, provincial and district disaster management centres
- And mobilize disaster management volunteers.
After the council meeting of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council [PSCBC] which was convened on the 17th March 2020 NEHAWU has been proactively requesting from the employer access to government’s emergency preparedness plan geared at preventing or reducing the risk, including measures to mitigate any danger related to our members’ performance of their duties. The national union has raised sharply the glaring weaknesses and inadequacies of the Guidelines on the Management of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Public Service, as presented to us by the employer at the very same council meeting. In subsequent meetings [including the National Nerve Centre] we have further submitted our own proposals.
NEHAWU is shocked and highly disappointed that its members and workers who include doctors, nurses, cleaners, ambulance and morgue workers are to date still highly exposed to occupational risk in which they are forced to work without the necessary Personal Protective Equipment as per clause 4.4 of the Workplace Preparedness: COVID–19 Guidelines of the Department of Employment & Labour at different workplaces across the country.
The employer’s conduct of exposing our members to occupational risk to their health and lives is a direct violation of Section 8 of the Occupational Health & Safety Act;1993 [OHSA], as well as the Guidelines and Regulations promulgated under the Disaster Management Act; 2002. In this regard, NEHAWU demands the following:
- The Minister must exercise his powers in terms of the OHSA to prohibit the performance of those duties that endangers and/or risk the health and safety of NEHAWU member with immediate effect, up to until there has been full compliance with the Act, and, the Department of Labour Regulations and Guidelines on Covid-19.
- Our members must be provided with Personal Protective Equipment of the specifications stated in the guidelines with immediate effect
- The Minister must immediately attend to the areas of concerns and considerations communicated to him by the national union on the 29th March 2020.
NEHAWU demands compliance from the department in relation to the above demands or an undertaking that such will be complied with by no later than 01st April 2020, failing which, we shall approach the High Court on an urgent basis seeking an interdict on behalf of our members against their unlawful and reckless exposure to occupational risk to their health and safety by the employer who is the custodian of the law.
Government has a role to play in protecting our members while we fight this virus as a country. While our members are on the frontal line of fighting the virus it is imperative that they are given all the necessary PPE’s and sanitisers. The safety of our members is a non-debatable matter and we will fight until the bitter end to ensure that they are protected at all material times.
Our members and workers in general have a right to life as prescribed in section 11 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and in this regard, we are consulting our lawyers as part of preparing for a legal fight in court against this conduct by government as led by the Minister of Health in the form of a urgent application.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969
Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 visit: www.nehawu.org.za
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