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The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) says that the indefinite strike by its members and other workers in the public sector is still continuing but without the essential workers and public sector workers not covered by the bargaining unit.

This comes after the Labour Appeal Court issued an order interdicting Nehawu members employed in essential services, and those that are not under the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), from striking. The union reacted that they will comply and will consult their members on the appeal processes.  Major public health institutions could not cope with the disruption of services last week.

“As per the court order, we have issued a communication to all our members in the essential services such as Sassa, SIU and Sanbi. We want to emphasise that the strike is still continuing except with those categories of the workers interdicted. Not everyone is an essential worker, that should be clear,” said the provincial secretary of Nehawu in Gauteng, Mzikayise Tshontshi.

Essential workers and those who work at the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the South African National Botanical Institute (Sanbi) have been barred from participation in Nehawu’s strike.

“We are still willing to go back to the negotiations table, finish the bargaining process and find an amicable solution to end this impasse. We haven’t been given any mandate to start fresh negotiations but to conclude 2022/23 negotiations,” he said. On the responsibility for deaths that occurred during the strike, he said they will wait for the results of any investigations that the department or the minister may institute, but to their knowledge none of these deaths can be directly linked to their strike. “However the strike by its very nature will include the withdrawal of labour and during our undertakings we followed the law and our rights.”

Welcoming the ruling by the Labour Appeal Court, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla thanked his colleagues, the former acting minister and the current minister for public service and administration, for protecting the vulnerable members of society, who depend solely on public health services, by pursuing the matter relentlessly in court. “There is no doubt that the strike has disrupted provision of essential health services in the country, leading to untold suffering and frustrations amongst the public who desperately needed healthcare and life-saving treatment and other interventions in the public health facilities,” he said in a statement.

Unions are still resolute in their demand for a 10% wage increase, and other unions in the public sector like the South African Policing Union are set to join the indefinite strike by Friday this week.