TENS of thousands took part in a National Day of Action organised by South Africa’s National Education Health & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) against National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on Wednesday morning, 22nd February 2017.
The Day of Action included a joint march with the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) in Tshwane to the Department of Health and South African Nursing Council offices.
The aim of this National Day of Action is to show the National Treasury and government as a whole that we are not prepared to accept starvation wage, outsourcing, labour broking and private public partnership, said the NEHAWU Secretariat.
The union organised five marches with the main march to Parliament in Cape Town where a memorandum was handed over to the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan before he delivered the 2017 budget speech. While other marches took place in four provinces namely: Eastern Cape (Bisho), KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg), Northern Cape (Kimberly) and Gauteng (Tshwane).
On the eve of the mass protests, NEHAWU Secretariat said: ‘This national day of action comes as a result of gross frustrations and growing dissatisfaction with both departments drawn from their stubbornness and aggressiveness in implementing policies that are anti-workers.
‘In the public sector as a whole, we have begun already to experience directly the impact of this gloomy macroeconomic context and the Treasury’s austerity measures. This year, the Treasury has permanently closed all existing public service vacancies and effectively imposed wage cuts in the public service with a level of wage increase that is below inflation.
‘As a union we have taken this decision to embark on this action because we know for a fact that the decisions that the Treasury announces during the Budget Speech affect the wage increase, job security and conditions of service of workers in the public service and public sector as a whole. On the 22 February 2017, it is the Budget Day whereby the Treasury shall be presenting the national budget in Parliament.
‘During the 2016 Budget Speech, the Treasury announced the permanent closure of existing vacancies in the public service. Indeed, the closure of vacancies has created more work for fewer workers whilst the rate of pay still remain the same. The 2017 Budget Speech will be delivered by the Minister of Finance on the 22nd February 2017 hence our march on this day to make a call that all funded vacant posts must be filled immediately, as this (non-filling) has created even more work-overload across state administration and other supportive staff levels such as clerks, cleaners, messengers, potters and other so-called blue-collar workers in all departments and state institutions.
‘The union is aware that this destruction of jobs in the public service is done in the name of reducing the public service wage bill and we shall not accept and shall fight against. As NEHAWU, we are saying NO to these austerity measures that are only targeted at the low-paid workers in the public service and state institutions.
‘We know that in this year’s Budget Speech, the Treasury is going to announce even more austerity measures that are going to affect other sections of workers. Because already it has planned to cut the allocations to the salaries for national and provincial departments by R10 billion in 2017/18 and R15 billion in 2018/19.
‘This means that there would be more closure of vacancies and wage increase that would be below the cost of living. So our demands are clear in this regard:
• Fill the vacancies to improve service delivery – don’t close vacancies.
• Improve pay and conditions of service in order to boost morale and performance of the public servants – don’t create work-overload with poor pay.
‘As part of these demands, we are also embarking on this mass action to support the demands of the community health workers and all the workers in the country’s points of entry that are going to be seriously affected by the creation of the Border Management Agency.
‘Community health workers must become part of the public service in order for their pay and conditions of service to improve. These workers are extremely exploited whilst they are delivering important public services to our communities and they deserve to be employed in the public service and paid better.
‘Thus, our demands are clear, end the labour-broking of the community health workers by absorbing them into the public service. The creation of the Border Management Agency is the outsourcing of the public service to the private sector. This means that the jobs of some of the workers in home affairs, SARS, health, agriculture and other departments that are working in the country’s entry points or borders are going to be outsourced to the private sector through the Border Management Agency.
‘Once again, our demands are clear. NEHAWU is saying, we reject the creation of the Border Management Agency, we reject outsourcing and casualisation of public service jobs. This year we shall be taking our mandate from members on the new round of wage negotiation in the public service.
‘Because of the Treasury’s decisions some of the demands in the current agreement have not been implemented and as NEHAWU, we are going to fight for their implementation before any new negotiations … The joint march of NEHAWU and DENOSA is underpinned by the understanding that all the issues are interwoven and requires a joint effort to vent the dissatisfactions with the Department of health, National Treasury, DPSA and SANC.
‘Therefore, we jointly demand the following:
• Speedy and full-implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI);
• Addressing the severe shortage of nurses and non-absorption of community service nurses at the time when there are high vacancy rates in facilities;
• Payment of nurses and suppliers;
• Full respect of nurses in SA as essential service workers;
• Consistent implementation of the Nursing Strategy like provision of nurses uniform by government;
• Implementation of the reopening of previously closed nursing colleges countrywide in line with the undertaking by President Jacob Zuma in his 2011 State of the Nation Address;
• Full transformation at the South African Nursing Council;
• Continuous professional development opportunities for nurses in facilities at a time of gross shortages of nurses;
• Decentralisation of SANC (Opening of provincial offices urgently);
• Opening of the registration period for payment of annual fees throughout the year, and not only from July to December of each year;
• To allow nurses who work for government (who form majority nursing workforce in SA) to choose months that SANC can deduct annual fees, so that nurses don’t have to come to Pretoria; and
• Transparency on how the fees are increased and utilised by SANC.
• Consistent implementation of the Nursing Strategy like provision of nurses uniform;
• Review of the benefits for nurses e.g. Occupation-Specific Dispensation (OSD), rural allowance and danger allowance.’