COVID-19 nurses, support staff demand contract renewals

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Nurses and support staff were almost forcibly removed by the police from outside the Gauteng government’s offices.

The staffers have been camping outside the offices in Johannesburg for several days to press for their reinstatement.

Their contracts expired in March this year after they were employed to augment healthcare staff in public hospitals in Gauteng during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are now demanding appointment letters from the provincial government after some of their colleagues returned to work.

“All those that were employed during COVID whose contracts were terminated. Come back your appointment letters are ready for you,” says Panyaza Lesufi, the Gauteng Premier.

A promise was made to absorb all staffers who were employed on a contractual basis during the Nasi iSpani launch in June.

Some workers have been absorbed while those who haven’t feel like they’ve been side-lined. Frustrations are mounting from qualified healthcare workers who remain out of work.

Nurses, radiologists, pharmacists, and support staff are at their wit’s end. They have resorted to camping at the entrances of the office of the provincial government in Gauteng.

“We have been here for a long time. We returned here after handing over a memorandum of demands, but we never got answers. It is clear that our qualifications are not recognised and we have to sleep here to get our jobs,” says Mpho Makudu, a healthcare worker.

Workers have returned to the offices several times this month. Nursing union, Denosa has condemned attempts by police to remove workers from the province’s offices. It says workers should exercise their constitutional right to protest without being intimidated.

“It cannot be correct that when workers or people who are unemployed are trying to fight and get help for a legitimate cry for employment then they are subjected to violence. It is not correct those people should be given a union and engage in what they demand. Whether they can be met or not is something else that should be communicated,” says Bongani Mazibuko, the Denosa Gauteng Secretary.

Other trade unions say public hospitals like Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Mxeke and Pretoria West Hospital, and others in Gauteng remain under-resourced.

“People think nurses work overtime for more money but that is not the case. They work long hours and beyond the regulated 12 hours because there is not enough workforce to cover that area,” says Tumisho Madihlaba, from Nehawu.

Another union has threatened to take the matter to the labour court.

“Not all of them were recalled but most of them were recalled that is constructive dismissal and it constitutes unfair dismissal. That is why we are calling those who were not recalled to come forward so we can have a strong solid case that we can take to the labour court,” says Bafana Tshabalala from Health and Allied Workers Indaba Union.

However, the Gauteng Provincial Government says the matter is receiving the attention it deserves.

Video: Nurses call for contract renewals