Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


‘They’ll never get it’ – Nehawu’s strike in quest for 10% raise ‘pure foolishness’

A labour law specialist says there has never been any settlement at 10%.

As the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) strike action spreads across the country, an expert says though the industrial action is unlawful, it will likely gain momentum.

Patients were turned away from some hospitals in Gauteng, Gqeberha, the Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal due to a public sector wage strike, and many government offices closed across the country.

‘They’ll never get it’

Labour law specialist Andrew Levy said the strike was unlawful, not procedural and would gain momentum for a little while until it died down.

“It is very concerning because if you look at the position of the unions, looking for 10%, they’ll never get it – there’s never been any settlements at 10%. It’s an impossible negotiation,” he said.

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“They could’ve asked for eight percent, which would be much better. But to go out on strike for that distance from where they should be is just pure foolishness.

“What’s going to happen is all strikes will spread out and last a little longer. Simply because it’s unlawful, those who can be identified as perpetrators of violence will unquestionably lose their jobs.”

‘No work, no pay’

Acting Minister of Public Service and Administration Thulas Nxesi during a media briefing on Monday, strongly condemned the strike by public servants and said the principle of no work, no pay was non-negotiable. Any labour action must be conducted within the law.

“The department remains vigilant of any illegal activities designed to deny officials and the public access to the premises,” he said.

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“We have just received a court judgment which has dismissed Nehawu’s appeal of the interdict, which was handed out on Saturday.

“This further confirms our view that the actions of those striking today are illegal. The police will continue to do their work to stop violence and disruptions of normal activities of employees not on strike.”

The union has approached the Labour Appeal Court to appeal against a decision to enforce the interdict against the strike granted by the Labour Court to the department of public service and administration.

Levy said following Nxesi’s briefing it was not even a question whether the government would cave in to the demands.

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“I would hate to see the government roll over. If they do, it’ll be a very worrying sign for our future, that government has no backbone, conceding [to] gangster behaviour.”

Nehawu ‘endangering lives of patients’

The Democratic Alliance and Freedom Front Plus (FF+) both condemned the protests with FF+ MP Philip van Staden calling for the government to take action against protesters at hospitals, who were endangering the lives of patients.

Van Staden said government was to blame for the crisis, “given the terrible conditions under which healthcare workers work on a daily basis with very little resources at their disposal”.

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Provincial health department statements from Gauteng, the Free State, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal also condemned the demonstrations, saying they were violating patients’ constitutional rights to health and life.