Temporary job reprieve for community health workers

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The jobs of thousands of community health workers may have been temporarily saved as the Labour Court rules that the Gauteng Department of Health violated labour laws when it advertised their jobs without notice, reports Health-e News.

Represented by lawyers from Werksmans Attorneys, Gauteng community health workers took the provincial department to court after the department advertised their jobs in early January without notice allegedly in violation of labour law. Subsequently, workers allege the department told them to re-apply for their jobs and that only some workers would be hired back, according to a letter sent by workers’ attorneys to head of Gauteng Department of Health Dr Barney Selebano.

The report says the Labour Court found in the community health workers’ favour, ruling that despite their status as contract workers, community health workers are effectively department employees and should have received notice prior to their jobs being advertised.

In court, the Gauteng Department of Health had argued that community health workers were not employees as set out in the Labour Relations Act. Instead, the department said that community health workers were volunteers and thus that the Labour Court did not have jurisdiction to rule in the matter.

The ruling means that community health workers will keep their jobs for now. And, the report says, according to Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson Steve Mabona, the department will not appeal the judgment.

“The judgement is fair, according to our interpretation of it,” Mabona is quoted in the report as saying. “The court pronounced that these employees can be referred to as government employees, however their employment conditions does not change from that of being contract employees of the department for a stipulated period.”

Workers will now meet with lawyers to discuss taking possible further legal action to secure permanent employment through permanent or fixed-term contracts.

Health-e News material

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