Last night, the police in the province fired rubber bullets on a group of Community Healthcare Workers (mostly womxn) as they occupied Dukhumbane Building, Department of Health in Bhisho.
This after a long day of picketing that brought only another “no show” from the ECDoH of Health. The ECDoH had failed to issue any reply when given seven days to respond to the CHWs’ demands for permanent employment and a living wage. While holding their ground all day, these CHWs learned that Dr Mbengashe was on radio claiming that he had been in contact with the group. Yet no one except the police turned up to receive these essential frontline healthcare workers!
In a heaping of indignity upon indignity, as soon as darkness fell and the media left, the police returned to open fire with rubber bullets on the CHWs. Even as everyone dropped to the floor, the police continued to fire at them, injuring and scattering the group and leaving many to walk 8 kilometres in the freezing cold to try and find somewhere safe to spend the night!
This is what the Department believes is an appropriate response when workers who form a vital component of the healthcare system, take a stand against the precarious and exploitative employment they have suffered for so many years! Have our nation’s police force learned nothing from Marikana? Do our government officials care nothing for the lives of the men and womxn who are the first line of defence against a pandemic raging across the globe?
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how important CHWs are to the health and wellbeing of our communities and it has exposed how completely disregarded they are by the Department of Health.
We condemn in the strongest terms the failure by ECDoH to negotiate with frontline health workers and their representatives. An urgent national intervention into the Eastern Cape Department of Health is needed NOW!
Do what is right! Employ all CHWs permanently! Pay all CHWs a living wage!
SAFTU calls for an end to the violence and intimidation unleashed by bosses on workers across the country when protesting the disregard of their health and their rights! STOP negotiating with workers through bullets!
As the federation we commit to the struggles of community health workers across the country and will build a campaign to escalate the demands of CHWs with other workers and civil society in the country.
ORGANISE OR STARVE!