Nehawu protest. Picture: SUPPLIED
Nehawu protest. Picture: SUPPLIED

Health minister Zweli Mkhize is considering a union proposal to incentivise health-care workers at the front line of the fight against Covid-19, as they prepare to embark on rolling mass protests across the country from Friday.

Zola Saphetha, general secretary of National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), said they met with Mkhize and his team on August 13, where it was agreed that the minister would take the issue of “risk allowance or motivational incentives” for front-line workers for consideration.

Nehawu, the country’s third-largest public sector union which represents 108,000 health-care workers, has been demanding that front-line workers be paid  a “danger allowance” for working in the front line.

Mkhize's spokesperson Lwazi Manzi could not be immediately reached for comment.

But the government is  facing court and arbitration proceedings over its refusal to implement salary increases for public sector workers that were due in April. The government announced in its plans in February to cut the public sector wage bill by more than R160bn over the next three years, a decision described by unions as a “declaration of war”.

Nehawu has been on a warpath with government over the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), staff shortages at public health-care facilities and increasing number of front-line workers infected with the coronavirus.

More than 27,360 front-line workers have been infected with the virus and 240 have died from it.

The Compensation Fund said on Thursday it had received 3,240 Covid-19-related claims so far, and had paid R419,182.85 in medical claims for workers who contracted the coronavirus in the line of duty.

Of the 3,240 claims, the fund accepted liability for 2,097 and rejected 443, while 700 cases were awaiting adjudication.

Nehawu said it will use its strike at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) — over management’s decision to freeze salaries for 2020/2021 — on Friday as a launch-pad for a national programme of protest to draw attention to the risks its members face from Covid-19.

If the strike goes ahead it could disrupt health-care service as the NHLS provides all the diagnostic tests for patients who use the public health sector, including those for Covid-19, HIV and tuberculosis.

The NHLS has said it would not hesitate to approach the labour court on an urgent basis to “protect its employees and the SA public”. Nehawu said it would hold lunch-hour pickets in the last week of August, which would culminate in a stay away on August 28.

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