Joburg health workers strike, health department counters with an interim interdict

‘During Covid we were called heroes — is this how you treat heroes?’ Health workers at the embattled Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital are demanding a 10% wage increase as part of a national public sector strike.
A standoff between civil servants and the government has reached boiling point, with workers taking to the street to demand a 10% wage increase.
This follows Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi saying he was unilaterally implementing a 3% wage increase that would remain in place until 2026, when negotiations would next take place.
Nxesi announced the 3% wage increase while discussions were still continuing at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council. Union leaders fear a precedent of disregard for negotiations, and unilateral decision-making, is being set.
Tyres were burning on either side of Chris Hani Road in Soweto, Johannesburg, on Tuesday morning. Workers clad mostly in red union colours were gathered outside, chanting and singing Struggle songs. Some were ensuring that no vehicles, including ambulances, entered the premises. Inside, patients waited in queues, unattended.
Big turnout
Of all the hospitals disrupted in the strike, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital had the biggest turnout. Union leaders say that’s due to anger and frustration by employees over earning roughly the same for years, while the cost of living skyrockets. Employees also cited issues such as being understaffed, dire working conditions due to lack of functioning equipment, medication and even food.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Doctors bring lunch for hungry patients as Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital reaches ‘crisis point’ ”
Deputy regional chairperson of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers, Mziyanda Ndevu, said: “The picket started two weeks back when all the staff, nurses, porters, your admin clerk, all the employees came together, because they feel like they are being insulted by this government with the 3%.
“What angers the employees the most is that time when the employer reneged in 2020 on a resolution made in 2019. that’s made the workers come out in numbers. We are going to shut down Pretoria if the government doesn’t respond to our demand of a 10% wage increase.
“We will shut down the whole country.”
‘Loyalty betrayed’
Trade union federations Cosatu, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) refused to accept the government’s offer of a 3% wage increase, a R1,000 cash allowance that will lapse in March 2023, and a 1.5% pay progression for qualifying ...