Careworkers in Khayelitsha march for better working conditions

Earlier this year, community care workers in Khayelitsha marched to the health sub-district office demanding to work directly for the Department of Health. Archive Photo by Mzi Velapi

About 300 community careworkers marched from Day Hospital in Site B Khayeltisha to the health district offices demanding better working conditions.

Community careworkers from Khayelitsha and surrounding townships marched to the offices of the Department of Health in Khayelitsha demanding better working conditions. Led by their trade unions, the National Union of Public Service & Allied Workers (NUPSAW) and the National Union of Care Workers of South Africa (NUCWOSA), and supported by non-governmental organisations, they handed a memorandum of demands to the Director of the Khayelitsha and Eastern Substructure, Michael Phillips.

Whilst addressing the workers, an organiser of the march from NUPSAW, Cynthia Tikwayo, said that they want the department to pay them. “We want to be paid back what we are owed. The organisations have been owing since 2018,” she said.

According to Mandla Oliphant, a shopsteward from NUPSAW, in 2018 at the bargaining chamber it was agreed that the salaries of community careworkers were going to be standardised and it was agreed that they would be paid R3,500. “The NGOs were paying the careworkers what they wanted so it was decided that they should be paid R3,500 but the provincial government did not implement that after it was signed in June 2018 and instead they released a memorandum saying that it was going to start on the 1st of April 2019. So the careworkers demand the money between when the resolution was signed and April 2019,” said Oliphant.

Tikwayo also said that they demand uniforms from their employers as they are only given one T-shirt. “You have to wear the same T-shirt from Monday to Friday. They do not provide us with pants or skirts or shoes. You have to buy it from you own pocket,” she said.

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“The integration process is a way of just adding more job responsibilities that we are not getting paid for. Also the demarcation works against careworkers. I stay in Site B but I’m expected to work in Harare which is outside of my community and that puts my life at risk. They do not care about our safety,” said Tikwayo.

Counsellor and leader of NUCWOSA, Richman Nyangani, said that the working conditions of counsellors are not different from those of careworkers. “The employer tries hard to divide us. Some counsellors are made to believe that they are better than the careworkers. We must not allow the employer to divide us because they will win if we are divided,” he said.

The careworkers work for different NGOs – including SACLA, TB & HIV Care, St Lukes, Khethimpilo, Masincedane, Philani and Caring Network – which get funding from the Department of Health.

Ntombethemba Maduna from NUPSAW read the memorandum before it was signed. The careworkers want full recognition as professionals and to be treated like other professionals in the field of health. They want to work for the Department of Health directly, with standardised job descriptions, full provision for occupational health and safety, reduced working hours and work load, and for the back-dated wage increase to be paid.

The careworkers gave the officials 10 days to respond to their demands.

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