Nehawu strike: Patients at Helen Joseph Hospital told to go home

Nehawu's chairperson at Helen Joseph Hospital blamed government for not negotiating with the union.

Patients were turned away at Helen Joseph Hospital on Monday after the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and other unions blocked the entrance with burning tyres.

Staff strike at Helen Joseph Hospital

The workers are demanding a 10% salary increase, R2 500 housing allowance and for their children to be given bursaries.

The workers vowed to continue with their protest until their employer sits down with them at the negotiating table. 

ALSO READ: SA hospitals in crisis: Patients in jeopardy amid Nehawu strike

Government accused of being ‘arrogant’

Chairperson of Nehawu at Helen Joseph Hospital, Hixani Baloyi, blamed the strike on the government’s failure to negotiate with them. 

“We are dealing with an arrogant employer who relies on the courts instead of collective bargaining. In 2021, they gave us a gratuity which is like a bribe, this is something that we did not sign for as Nehawu but other unions did sign for,” said Baloyi. 

“Last year they offered 3% which they unilaterally implemented without any resolution. It is very strange for us that the employer can put an offer on the table without us making demands. Our demand is 10%, the other demand as public servants is that our children should be given bursaries and we should be given R2 500 for housing allowance.”

He said the government has been using employees to hide its failures, instead of fixing the real issues faced by employees. 

“If you get inside the hospital, you will see long queues. The government came with a moratorium in terms of filling of posts, [but] they are no longer filling vacant posts, [putting strain on workers],” he said.

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He said the strike would only continue until the employer calls them to negotiate their 2022 demands. 

“We are not surrendering or retreating, until then. When the employer calls us, it must be about 2022, once that has been resolved, we go to the demands of 2023,” Baloyi said. 

Patients turned away

Justin Kupane, a patient at Helen Joseph Hospital, said he had to go back home without a doctor seeing him because of the strike. 

Kupane said patients were told they should return home because the hospital’s staff could not do anything for them.

“They told us they don’t have any files because all the clerks were on strike. I do not have money for transport, to come and be told you cannot see a doctor is unfair,” he said. 

“I had to make appointments for next week and we don’t even know if we will be assisted. Where will I get the money because I am unemployed.”

Kupane, however, sympathised with the striking hospital workers.

“The government is supposed to give these employees what they deserve. They can’t keep on saying they do not have money but the big dogs out there are getting their increases.”

NOW READ: Nehawu strike goes ahead on Monday, despite labour interdict

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