Phophi Ramathuba. Picture: SOWETAN
Phophi Ramathuba. Picture: SOWETAN

The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) says it is mobilising for mass action in Limpopo because the provincial health department has yet to pay staff their performance bonuses for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

At issue is R160m in benefits that Nehawu says should have been paid by July last year. The union says health is the only department in Limpopo that has yet to pay staff bonuses for 2016-17.

"That money was budgeted for. What did they do with it?" said Nehawu’s Limpopo secretary Jacob Adams. "We have had various meetings with management. Last week their final offer was R90m. We told them to go to Treasury [and ask for more]." There was no dispute about the amount of money collectively owed to staff, he said.

Nehawu held a picket outside the offices of the Limpopo health department on Wednesday to draw attention to the plight of employees, said Adams. "If workers don’t get their bonuses they suffer."

Limpopo’s MEC for Health Phophi Ramathuba referred Business Day to the department’s spokesperson Neil Shikwambana, who was not immediately available for comment.

Protesting staff, including Nehawu members, shut down Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Gauteng last month. They damaged property, barricaded the hospital’s entrance, and stopped family members visiting patients. One of the issues that sparked their ire was unpaid bonuses for 2016-17, which the Gauteng health department subsequently agreed to pay.

When asked whether Nehawu could guarantee patient safety should there be a healthcare worker strike in the province, Adams said: "If you manage government resources as if you are in a spaza shop it will result in chaos."

Correction: June 15 2018

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Jacob Adams as the Nehawu Limpopo spokesperson. He is in fact Nehawu's Limpopo secretary.