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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

‘Go back to work or face consequences’ – Phaahla warns Nehawu

The Labour Appeals Court on Monday rejected Nehawu’s application to appeal government’s strike interdict.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla has warned striking National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) members to return to work on Tuesday, or face criminal charges and possible dismissal.

This comes after the Labour Appeals Court on Monday rejected Nehawu’s application to appeal government’s strike interdict.

Phaahla held a media briefing on Monday night, speaking about the court ruling and the impact of the strike which has been marred by violence and intimidation.

Nehawu strike deplorable

Public servants affiliated with the union have been staging countrywide protests since last Monday, over a wage dispute, demanding a 10% wage increase, while government is offering 4.7%.

In its judgment, the Labour Appeals Court called Nehawu’s strike “deplorable”.

“A more deplorable approach, with the gravest and in some instances it appears deadly consequences, was the approach of Nehawu to the strike by its members employed in essential services. In this regard, the union and its members illustrated a flagrant disregard for the law, the employer and the people of this country entitled to access essential public services,” it said.

ALSO READ: Court rejects Nehawu’s application to appeal government strike interdict

Strike caused untold hardship

Phaahla echoed the sentiments of the court.

“There is no doubt that the strike has disrupted provision of essential healthcare services in the country, leading to untold suffering and frustrations amongst the public who desperately needed healthcare and life-saving treatment and other interventions in the public health facilities.

“It is regrettable that this strike action has gone on causing untold hardship, pain, frustration and possible loss of life in its cause while it could have been avoided. It is inconceivable that leadership of Nehawu were oblivious to the provisions of our law in this regard,” Phaahla said.

Go back to work

Phaahla urged Nehawu members to respect the court order.

“We urge all the workers in the health sector as defined in the court order to report to their work places. Any employee who fails to comply with this court order will be committing an act of misconduct, subject to disciplinary action including possible dismissal.

“Any person committing any criminals acts in pursuit of the strike action will be subjected to criminal proceedings. We would also like to apologise to all South Africans who have had pain, humiliation and suffering as a result of the strike,” Phaahla said.

Nehawu poised

Meanwhile, Nehawu national spokesperson Lwazi Nkolozi told The Citizen the union noted the judgment.

“Our legal guides are studying it and, as such, we will then make a pronouncement as Nehawu with regards to it,” he said.

ALSO READ: Health worker protest: Death toll climbs as court interdicts strike

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