EMS staff down tools
Members of the Chris Hani Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have joined in a strike involving their colleagues throughout the Eastern Cape.
The Chris Hani EMS workers went on strike on Monday, demanding the payment of overtime which they say the health department has been promising since 2003.
A group protested outside the Komani Hospital premises.
South African Emergency Personnel Union (SAEPU) provincial chair Michael Mvontshi said the strike followed after the department’s superintendent-general Thobile Mbengashe failed to arrive at a recent union meeting.
Mvontshi said the unions of SAEPU, Nehawu, Horspersa and the Public Service Association met with the head of department to highlight grievances.
On Friday, workers met at the EMS offices at Komani Hospital to speak about the way forward and the action to be taken to ensure that the department addressed their concerns. “We work 12 hours from 7am until 7pm and we want our payment. We wanted to sit with the department and come up with a solution concerning the matter.”
He said health minister Aaron Motsoaledi had agreed that the money should be paid to workers, but the province had not responded.
He said the entire Chris Hani district had joined the strike.
The staff were also battling a shortage of workers and vehicles while there were increased calls from the department to be productive.
Health MEC Helen Sauls-August said in a statement, “We are disappointed that the workers have embarked on an illegal strike knowing very well that they are employed as essential service employees and therefore are not allowed to strike.
“The department will undertake internal process [ sic] for on-duty employees involved in this illegal strike.”
The public has been advised to make use of the call centre number 0800-032-364 as emergency bases are not operational.
Departmental spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said excess hours from 2015 to 2018 were being processed and that the outstanding payment related to the dispute between 2003-2014. This matter was still under discussion between the department and labour representatives.
“The MEC is activating contingency plans to make emergency medical services available to users during the illegal strike by emergency service employees. The interim measures include the use of private ambulances to respond to life-threatening, priority cases until the situation returns to normal.”
He said it was not in the superindent’s ambit of duties to be at the union meeting.
Sicwetsha said the department’s top management had met with the labour representative on Monday. The outcome of the meeting is not yet known.
NOT HAPPY: EMS staff protest near the Komani Hospital base