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The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) have accepted a settlement agreement tabled between all parties at the Public Services Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Wednesday. This brings an end to a week of strike action that was marked by the disruption of services at hospitals, state intransigence and police heavy handedness in dealing with the strike.

In a statement, the union says they achieved some significant milestones through the strike and that their actions were not in vain. For one, the strike highlighted the urgent need for the government to have a minimum service level agreement to ensure balance in adherence to the constitutional right to strike and the mandatory requirements regarding designated essential services. A draft framework for such an agreement is an expected outcome of the bargaining processes within six months .

Another achievement, they say through the strength of the workers’ power, was to ensure that the government goes back to the bargaining council to negotiate the salary increase for the year 2022/23 which they arrogantly thought was concluded and closed. ‘’In this regard, an agreement was concluded on the augmentation of 2022/23 increment. The employer has agreed that the residual and substantive matters emanating from the 2022/23 wage dispute related to cost of living adjustment (COLA), shall be tabled and positively dealt with and concluded as part of 2023/24 wage negotiations,” the statement says.   

“We have already communicated the settlement agreement with our members and so far the reaction has been positive. They are relieved to go back to work while we are finalising some finer details on the settlement offer. Immediately after that we will then enter into fresh rounds of negotiations for 2023/24,” said Lwazi Nkolonzi, the national spokesperson of Nehawu.

According to Nkolonzi, the 3% which was unilaterally enforced by the employer and vehemently rejected by their members will now be augmented or adjusted, meaning the new settlement offer will be above 3%.

“This agreement serves as the conclusion of the dispute between parties and initiates the return of the Trade Unions to Council. We as PSCBC are elated that Parties could engage in constructive collective bargaining processes and find mutual ground in concluding an agreement. We are pleased that parties engaged in good faith in negotiations that benefit both employees and the employers, and foster a positive working relationship. As we welcome back parties to the council, we would like to express our appreciation to the majority of trade unions and the employer that have continued to ensure the functionality of the Council during this time,” the PSCBC said in a statement.

Meanwhile the national health department confirmed that the situation in health facilities returned to normal with the end of the strike. “The national department of health is working closely with the provincial health departments to address the backlog caused by the strike, this includes cancelled elective surgeries. We call upon all patients who couldn’t collect their life-saving medication to return to their pick-up points. We apologise to all South Africans who were inconvenienced by the strike action,” said Foster Mohale, the national health spokesperson.