Community care-workers demand permanent employment

Community careworkers at the report back rally in Joubert Park in Johannesburg. Photo by Ramatamo Sehoai

After years of voluntary service to the Department of Health, community health care-workers in Gauteng want to be employed permanently by the Department. They felt betrayed when their employer reneged on the decision to absorb them fully when they terminated their services with non-governmental organisations that they volunteered for.

Joubert Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

After years of voluntary service to the Department of Health, community healthcare workers in Gauteng want to be employed permanently by the Department. They felt betrayed when their employer reneged on the decision to absorb them fully when they terminated their services with non-governmental organisations that they volunteered for. They said this during a meeting in Joubert Park where care-workers spoke of their plight.

According to William Mokwena, organiser of the Gauteng Community Healthcare Workers Forum, in 2013 when the Department put them onto its payroll, they thought their woes were over, only to be surprised later in 2016 when they saw their jobs advertised and services outsourced to a company called Smart Purse.

“We asked questions but to no avail. Fortunately on the 2nd of October this year, we won an arbitration and the Department was ordered to settle the matter amicably with us and they failed. On the 9th we were supposed to meet with them, they failed to pitch,” he said.

Zoleka Mbotshwa, Chairperson of the forum said this left them with no option but to go back to arbitration and continue to mobilise other healthcare workers until the Department concedes to their demands. “We are tired of being taken for granted. Some of us have been volunteers for more than 20 years. We want to be fully employed by the Department and be entitled to all the benefits.” There being almost 9,000 care-workers in Gauteng alone, she said the job they do is very important to the community.

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The job of a care-worker entails visiting patients at homes, bathing and feeding them. They do HIV counseling and testing at the hospitals but at the end of the day they are not recognised.  “We can’t be volunteers forever. The law is also against this,” said Mbotshwa.

Spokesperson to MEC of Health in Gauteng, Khutso Rabothata said the matter is being handled at the national level. Attempts to reach the national DOH were fruitless.

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