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Nehawu threatens nationwide strike and at National Health Labs

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) will launch a national work stoppage on Friday (21 August) and potentially a national strike in September, as well as a strike at the National Health Laboratories Service.

Members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), the third-biggest public service trade union, will apply for a day’s leave across the country on Friday and hold lunch-hour pickets in the last week of August, protesting against the shortage of staff and personal protective equipment (PPE). Business Day reports that they will also be protesting against their employer’s claimed non-compliance with occupation, health and safety regulations.

If the protests materialise and 108,000 health-care workers down tools, service delivery in South Africa’s public health-care sector, which is battling one of the highest COVID-19 cases loads in the world, could be severely affected. Nehawu represents a wide range of health-care workers in the public sector, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists, cleaners, dispensary and reception clerks; community health workers, ambulance and morgue workers; community care workers and laboratory technicians.

Nehawu said in the report that if the work stoppages and protests did not work, the union will embark on a strike in September, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to peak in some parts of the country. The planned protests have been flagged as having the potential to reverse gains achieved in flattening the COVID-19 curve, as the capacity of front-line workers may be reduced.

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said it is “horrible” that workers are being infected with COVID-19 and the union is “steaming ahead” in mobilising its members to send “a clear message” to the government that their health and safety is of “paramount importance”.


Also, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) is preparing for a strike at the National Health Laboratories Service (NHLS) to resolve a salary dispute dating back to August last year, reports Engineering News. The decision follows an “unsuccessful meeting” convened with the management of the NHLS and the union.

Nehawu has obtained a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration non-resolution certificate that paves the way for a strike action. The union says management has failed to implement a proper Performance Management and Development System and as things stands, its members and workers are still waiting for their long overdue payments.

“As Nehawu, we find it unacceptable that the NHLS management has elected to defend unfair labour practices by discriminating our members and workers who successfully appealed for their salary levels to be upgraded, despite an impartial expert committee recommending that these workers must be progressed,” said the union.

The report says the union is also unhappy about the NHLS management’s 0% salary increase for the 2020/21 annual salary negotiations. It has also expressed dissatisfaction that a large number of its members and workers at NHLS have contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with over 700 workers already infected.


The state laboratory has, meanwhile, moved to have its staff declared essential workers in a bid to prevent potentially crippling strikes, reports Business Day. “The NHLS believes that the employees are unable to go on strike as they render an essential service,” said the service’s CEO, Kamy Chetty.

The NHLS has asked the essential services committee, a legal entity established in terms of the Labour Relations Act, to confirm that the services rendered by its employees are essential. An initial hearing has been set down for 26 August. “In the event that Nehawu provides a strike notice, we will not hesitate to approach the Labour Court on an urgent basis so as to protect our employees and the South African public,’ said Chetty.

Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba said Nehawu intends to serve the strike notice on 28 August and launch its strike on the following Monday.

[link url="https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2020-08-17-health-care-may-be-disrupted-when-nehawu-members-protest-on-friday/"]Full Business Day report[/link]


[link url="https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/nehawu-to-strike-at-national-health-laboratories-service-2020-08-18/rep_id:4136"]Full Engineering News report[/link]


[link url="https://www.polity.org.za/article/nehawu-to-strike-at-national-health-laboratories-service-2020-08-18"]Nehawu press release[/link]


[link url="https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/health/2020-08-18-state-lab-seeks-to-have-staff-declared-essential-workers-as-union-prepares-strike/"]Full Business Day report[/link]

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