Careworkers march for better working conditions

NUCOSWA members marching to the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape. Photo by Chris Gilili

Workers from the National Union of Care Workers of South Africa marched from Bisho Stadium to the offices of the Eastern Cape Department of Health to highlight the poor conditions that care workers work under, especially the issue of working discontinuously for years under contracts.

Bhisho, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Workers from the National Union of Care Workers of South Africa (NUCWOSA) marched from Bisho Stadium to the offices of the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

The Thursday morning march was held to highlight the poor conditions that care workers work under, especially the issue of working discontinuously for years under contracts.

Thobeka Falteni, the national treasurer of NUCWOSA, lambasted the department for not taking them seriously as a union. “We mean nothing to the Department of Health, and this hurts us. Because we are always ignored. For the whole year we have been coming here but nothing happens,” she said.

“We are nothing in the eyes of the government. Even the people who are supposed to monitor us, treat us like trash. This kills us emotionally.”

According to Falteni they have been requesting a meeting with the Department of Health in order to address their grievances since the 15th of September this year. “Until now nothing has happened on that front. Quinton van de Merwe who has been the acting Director of Labour Relations failed to communicate their request with his superiors. As a recently registered union, one of the things that NUCWOSA members want is to exercise their institutional rights as a union,” explained Falteni.

Some of these rights include union stop-orders, shop-steward rights and also access to workplaces.

Lwande Mange who is the regional organizer in Port Elizabeth also expressed his frustration with the department.

“As care workers, we really feel like the department is undermining us. Maybe this is due to the fact that we are the lowest paid workers in the health care system. But we are the first people who know what is wrong with a patient before he or she may go to hospital,” he said.

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When Elitsha spoke with some health care workers they all sang the same tune of wanting to be relieved of working under contracts.

“I have worked as a care worker since 2003, for all these years I have been working under a contract. All I want is to work under better conditions at the clinic I am working at, and to also be permanently employed by the department of health. As we speak, my contract expires in March 2018 and only then it will be extended. We wish to be treated with dignity and thorough respect,” said Ntombekhaya Mbilane.

Bongani Lose who is the Director of Labour Relations told the members of NUCWOSA to make sure the union registers with CIPRO (the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) as soon as possible.

“We will not be crying over spilt milk now. I just started in this post at the beginning of November. However, I personally guarantee that I will kickstart the process before the 5th of December and make sure that NUCWOSA is fully compliant. I will not blame whoever occupied the office before me. I will just do my work,” said Lose. He is the former regional secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa in the Western Cape.

The care workers earn less than R3,000 a month, without anything extra to cover the expenses incurred in doing their job, like any costs of travel to attend to their patients.

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About Chris Gilili 18 Articles
Chris Gilili, a 23 year old freelance journalist based in East London. Graduated from Walter Sisulu University media studies school in 2015. Had a stint with Independent Media, in sports writing. Passionate about news and the media.