While an agreement was reached yesterday between the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Gauteng department of health ending the three-day crippling strike over unpaid performance bonuses to employees at Johannesburg’s Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, the union said the matter could have been resolved months ago.
Speaking after a meeting with the provincial health department, at which it was agreed to finally pay the outstanding bonuses for the 2016-2017 financial year to health workers, Nehawu provincial secretary Tshepo Mokheranyana lambasted the public employer for its “tendency of failing workers”.
He said: “The department’s arrogance and intransigence led to this situation at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.
“Had they addressed this matter in March, when we marched to their offices, we would have stability.”
Asked why it took the provincial department two months to resolve the performance bonus impasse, Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa’s spokesperson Khutso Rabothata said: “We delayed because there were processes that were being engaged.”
In terms of the agreement, a special multilateral meeting will be convened by next week to finalise the bonus deal, with a payment date to be announced on Tuesday.
The department gave reassurances yesterday at the meeting that the bonuses would be paid this month, paving the way for employees to return to work today.
Nehawu described the agreement as “a victory for our members and workers”.
The deal came about after the union “ferociously pushed the department to pay all qualifying workers their bonuses”, Nehawu said in a statement.
It added: “Nehawu will continue to push the department to respond comprehensively to the memorandum of demands submitted by the union on March 16.
“Our members are highly incensed at the department’s refusal to respond to the demands in the memorandum as it has an adverse effect on service delivery.”
Speaking to The Citizen yesterday, Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi put the responsibility to resolve the impasse squarely on the Gauteng provincial government.
Asked whether the strike could have been averted had the provincial department addressed the performance bonus grievance earlier, Dr Motsoaledi said: “The issue of unpaid performance bonuses is not a matter for the national [department] of health. If the Gauteng health department needed my assistance, they would have said so.
“Gauteng has a premier, an MEC for health and an MEC for finance to address the matter.”
Regarding his hasty visit to Charlotte Maxeke Hospital this week at the height of the strike, Motsoaledi said he did not go there to address the bonus matter.
“I went there because I was angry. I felt that regardless of how genuine your grievances may be, you have no reason to attack patients who have nothing to do with it.”
Protesting health workers had to “find other ways of dealing with matters, not by attacking patients”.