NHLS chief ex­ec­u­tive con­demns strike

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - KHAYA KOKO @khayakoko88

THE BIG­GEST ob­sta­cle faced by na­tional health lab­o­ra­to­ries in the coun­try is that unions are un­der­min­ing the South African pub­lic.

This con­dem­na­tion was made by Pro­fes­sor Shabir Madhi, the act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional Health Lab­o­ra­tory Ser­vices (NHLS), yes­ter­day in re­ac­tion to the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, Health and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union’s (Ne­hawu) as­ser­tions that it will in­ten­sify strike ac­tion.

Madhi re­buked Ne­hawu for what he said was van­dal­ism of NHLS prop­erty by union mem­bers dur­ing the strike.

The union be­gan the strike last week af­ter what it called “dead­locked ne­go­ti­a­tions” with the em­ployer, and vowed to in­ten­sify the strike should its mem­bers re­ject the NHLS’s 7.3% of­fer.

Ne­hawu said at a brief­ing in Joburg yes­ter­day that, with the strike in its fourth day, the NHLS was pay­ing “ex­or­bi­tant fees” to pri­vate sec­tor lab­o­ra­to­ries in­stead of pay­ing work­ers what the union felt was due to them.

“We have it on good au­thor­ity that some of the NHLS board mem­bers have in­ter­ests in th­ese pri­vate lab­o­ra­to­ries. We, there­fore, de­mand full dis­clo­sure of all the monies paid to th­ese lab­o­ra­to­ries prior and dur­ing the strike,” said Zola Saphetha, Ne­hawu’s gen­eral sec­re­tary.

How­ever, Madhi slammed Saphetha’s con­tentions of NHLS’s board mem­bers hav­ing in­ter­ests in the pri­vate labs used by the state en­tity.

“It is ac­tu­ally a use­less at­tempt on their part to de­ceive the pub­lic that there are other vested in­ter­ests at play. In fact, the big prob­lem we face now is the unions them­selves, which are un­der­min­ing the pub­lic of South Africa,” Madhi said.

‘Us as work­ers are also mem­bers of SA so­ci­ety’

He added his en­tity would “ob­vi­ously con­tinue” pay­ing pri­vate sec­tor providers as Ne­hawu pre­vented the NHLS from pro­vid­ing a ser­vice to South Africans.

Madhi said the money used to pay pri­vate com­pa­nies will be de­ducted from the salaries of work­ers who are on strike.

“So, that is where the money is go­ing to come from to en­able us to af­ford to pay pri­vate sec­tor providers. Ne­hawu should have spo­ken about the im­pli­ca­tion of their strike ac­tion on the fi­nan­cial well-be­ing of the or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he added.

Saphetha coun­tered Madhi’s views, say­ing they were forced into a strike as they were deal­ing with an “in­tran­si­gent man­age­ment” that was not will­ing to pay work­ers what they de­served.

“It’s (the strike) not some­thing that we wanted to hap­pen. But that’s what the law pro­vides work­ers with. If we can’t find each other and are deal­ing with an in­tran­si­gent man­age­ment, the only op­tion that is our con­sti­tu­tional right is to with­draw the labour,” Saphetha said.

“Of course this will af­fect some in­no­cent peo­ple. Re­mem­ber, us as work­ers are also mem­bers of South African so­ci­ety. So we are af­fected too, in the same way as they (the pub­lic) are af­fected. It is on that ba­sis, be­fore we even ven­tured into a strike, we called upon South African so­ci­ety to help us find an am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion to avert the strike.”

Five thou­sand work­ers are cur­rently on strike, and the NHLS and Ne­hawu con­ceded the in­dus­trial ac­tion gravely af­fected ser­vices.

Madhi con­demned Ne­hawu for “van­dal­ism in NHLS Eastern Cape labs, in­clud­ing lit­ter­ing of bio­haz­ard ma­te­ri­als”.

He pro­vided pic­tures in what he said were proof of his ac­cu­sa­tions.

Ne­hawu spokesper­son Khaya Xaba de­nied Madhi’s ac­cu­sa­tions, say­ing union work­ers con­ducted them­selves in a “dis­ci­plined and peace­ful man­ner” dur­ing the strike.

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