JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The South African Labour Appeal Court on Monday ordered striking state healthcare workers to end a week-long walkout that has affected services in some of the country’s major hospitals, the health department said.
National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) members went on strike last week after wage talks with the government failed.
The health department said on Sunday that clinical operations were hamstrung by a low nursing and administrative support staff turnout.
The court interdict will help stabilise services at the affected hospitals, the department said on Monday.
Striking workers have been ordered to go back to work by Tuesday morning, it said.
“The strike has disrupted provision of essential healthcare services in the country, leading to untold suffering and frustrations amongst the public who desperately needed healthcare and life-saving treatment,” said South Africa’s health minister Joe Phaahla.
The labour relations act prohibits essential workers from engaging in strike action which is detrimental to healthcare services with a risk of loss of life, he told a press briefing.
Union leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.
The union has been demanding a 10 percent wage hike, but the government offered 4.7 percent, according to local media SABC News.
The union said in a statement on Sunday that “no amount of litigation or intimidation by the government will deter us from this noble worthy cause that we have embarked on.”
Employer demands to drop the dispute process “is another demonstration of how far government is prepared to undermine and collapse collective bargaining and the dispute resolution mechanism by imposing their will on workers,” NEHAWU union leader Zola Saphetha told a news conference on Sunday.
The South African military said it had deployed medics to help in the affected hospitals at the request of the health department. – Reuters