Legal action against health dept follows failed attempts to engage - Nehawu

The union is unhappy with working conditions under the national lockdown after the government failed to provide protective equipment and sanitizers to frontline health workers.

Previously imported Covid-19 essentials, now made in South Africa. © maridav/123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG – The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) on Friday said its decision to turn to the courts regarding protecting members on duty came after efforts to engage with the health ministry failed.

The country's largest public-sector union is taking legal action against the government to compel it to protect its members who are at risk of contracting COVID-19.

The union is unhappy with working conditions under the national lockdown after the government failed to provide protective equipment and sanitisers to frontline health workers.

Nehawu's general secretary Zola Saphetha said: “We have done everything at our disposal. We shave tried all the tricks in the book to see if we can get any help from the minister of health, unfortunately, to no avail. That’s why we have had to go to court. The issues that we have raised are not just concerns but also solutions.”

Meanwhile, the health department said the shortage of equipment is not unique to South African health workers.

The department's Dr Yogan Pillay said: “The Department of Health and government broadly are doing everything to get the required commodities. There’s funding allocated to provinces to purchase these commodities and the department has put in orders of more than R40 million.”