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Cape Town paramedics protest against work hours

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Union also demands health department takes over salary payments of NGO community workers

Photo of health worker protest
Paramedics and community health workers marched through the centre of Cape Town on Thursday. Photo: Vincent Lali
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Dozens of paramedics and community health workers marched on Thursday to the Western Cape Health Department in Cape Town to against what they claim are long hours and dangerous working conditions.

They sang: “Nomafrench causes us worry” (a reference to Professor Nomafrench Mbombo, MEC for Health), “Down with NGOS” and “Equal salary for same qualification”.

The National Public Service Workers Union (NPSWU) organised the march. NPSWU provincial liaison officer David Rayters said the health department overworks paramedics.

“The Basic Conditions of Employment Act says no worker is permitted to work for more 45 hours per week, but paramedics work 60 hours per week,” he said. “Workers don’t have ample time to spend with their families.” This point is made in the memorandum handed over by the protesters to John Barends, Acting Director of Labour Relations.

“We will assess their complaints at the appropriate level and deal with them,” Barends said.

The memorandum also claims the department sends paramedics to dangerous areas without considering their safety.

But it is in fact Western Cape policy that emergency workers are escorted into red zone areas with police.

Mandla Ngcobo, who works as a paramedic in Khayelitsha said working too many hours per week prevents him from furthering his studies. “I don’t have time to study further and acquire more skills as a paramedic and I’m always tired because I don’t find time to rest,” he said.

The union also says outsourcing health work to NGOs causes community health workers to earn low salaries “close or equivalent to SASSA grants”.

“They are treated as if they have requested for donations from the health department,” says NPSWU. The union says the salaries of community workers who work under NGOs is less than R3,500 per month. The union is demanding that the health department employ community health workers through the Public Service Act within 12 months “to avoid this confusion of who the employer is”.

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TOPICS:  Health Labour

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