Sizwe Medical Aid in the experience of dissenting auto workers has failed to pay doctors’ bills and bankrupted members.
Members of the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa) at Volkswagen South Africa are angry that their union appointed Sizwe Medical Aid without consulting them. A group of Numsa members in Kariega last week marched to the union’s district offices where they handed over a petition demanding the agreement be nullified. They got wind of the agreement between Numsa and Sizwe Medical Aid from their employer.
The group’s spokesperson, Lukhanyiso Tyobeka has worked as a production operator for 22 years. He accused Sizwe Medical Aid of driving some workers into bankruptcy because it allegedly failed to pay their medical bills. “We do not know who gave them the mandate to enter into an agreement with Sizwe Medical Aid on our behalf. We know nothing of the agreement because we were never consulted. We have colleagues who have been struggling to get their bills paid by Sizwe Medical Aid after they were treated at doctors and medical institutions. These workers ended up accumulating unreasonable debts and are now financially crippled after Sizwe failed to pay doctors,” Tyobeka said.
He questioned the process that led to Sizwe being appointed saying other medical schemes were not accorded the opportunity to participate in a bidding process. Numsa spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola rubbished the allegations that the union was forcing members to join Sizwe Medical Aid. “It is not true to say that Numsa is choosing Sizwe for workers. No-one is forcing Sizwe on anyone. The auto industry decided after the last round of negotiations that there must be an industry medical aid. There was a process to choose a medical aid for the industry as a whole. The employer and Numsa formed a task team to decide which medical aid must be used.”
She said this was because several medical aid schemes operate in the industry while other companies have their own in-house schemes. “A decision was taken by the task force to appoint Sizwe. We have noted that some Numsa members are unhappy with that decision. We will call for a national auto shop stewards council to hear from members themselves on this issue. If the majority of them vote against the decision, it will not be imposed on them.”
An automated message from Sizwe Medical Aid to our reporter promised a substantive response will be provided by its customer service unit within 3-5 business days.