“We are taken for granted. The work we do has doubled. And we take on most of the workload, especially at the community level, without complaining,” says Ntuki Sejosing of Protea in Soweto, Johannesburg.
She was among hundreds of workers affiliated with the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) who marched to the Gauteng Department of Health on Friday.
The union is calling for its members, employed under the Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP), among others, to be permanently employed by the health department.
Sejosing works as a housekeeper for the department and has been with EPWP for over seven years. She earns R3,200 a month and says that is not enough to support her two children and her unemployed sister.
“We want the ministry to recognize us and pay us what we deserve. I’m really suffocating. Transport fares and food are increasing every day,” Sejosing said.
In March, workers protested and occupied the office of the Department of Health, demanding the cancellation of a notice of termination of EPWP workers’ contracts. The ministry then extended the contracts for another year.
NUPSAW, however, wants workers whose contracts are continually renewed to be made permanent. He accused the department of breaking labor relations law for not doing so. The union said most EPWP workers had worked for the department on a contract basis since 2010.
The Public Health and Social Development Sector Negotiation Council had appointed a commissioner to chair the case. NUPSAW said it was awaiting the Council’s outcome on whether contract workers should be considered permanent employees.
Sibonile Jeza, national organizer of NUPSAW, said a new date for the arbitration should be announced as the commissioner who was appointed has withdrawn from the case. He said the union had expressed concern that the appointee was an inexperienced deputy commissioner.
Jeza said the department agreed to meet with union representatives Oct. 12 and 13 in an effort to settle the matter.
“These workers are considered civil servants, but they are not employed on a permanent basis. The department has long neglected EPWP workers and we want that to stop,” Jeza said.
We are awaiting comments from the ministry.
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