Ricochet News

Eastern Cape emergency workers' strike ends after agreement reached

By Afikile Lugunya - Nov 8, 2018
Eastern Cape emergency workers' strike ends after agreement reached

Eastern Cape emergency medical services workers, who were on strike since last week, returned to work on Wednesday night, starting off with a night shift after having come to an agreement with the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

The workers had downed tools on Friday over unpaid overtime, affecting operations at provincial ambulance bases.

As a result, the Eastern Cape Department of Health, which insisted the strike was illegal because the workers are in the essential services category – which is forbidden from striking, sought to reach an agreement with the unions representing emergency medical services workers in the province to end the strike.

Spokesperson for the Eastern Cape MEC for Health, Lwandile Sicwetsha, on Wednesday confirmed that the strike had come to an end.

"The department activated its contingency plans to ensure that ambulance users were able to access emergency services and be transported to health facilities,” he said.

"The workers had embarked on illegal strike citing non-payment of overtime hours.”

Scwetsha added that the Department of Heath made the following commitment on the concerns raised by workers:

  1. The claims for 2003-2011 overtime be referred to an arbitration process to make a ruling,
  2. Overtime claims for the period 2012-2014 will be paid between December this year and January next year, and
  3. The outstanding payment of claims in 2018 (between July and October) will be paid during this month.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Health MEC, Ms Helen Sauls-August welcomed the end of the strike.

She still warned against essential services workers endangering the lives of patients by embarking on illegal strikes.

“We are pleased that the management and unions have reached an agreement on this.

“We want all our emergency workers to put our patients first and not take actions that put their lives at risk,” said MEC Helen Sauls-August.

She also apologized to the public about the inconvenience caused by the illegal strike.

The department will sign a new agreement that confirms these resolutions in Bhisho on Thursday.

Sicwetsha said that the contingency plan activated last week will remain in use until all emergency workers have reported back to work.

"Department will also monitor resumption of duties in all its ambulance bases in all districts,” he added.

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