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Nehawu threatens to intensify strike if govt doesn’t respond to its demands

Nehawu led a series of protests on Thursday. It wants changes to be made in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), among other issues.

Nehawu members gathered outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 3 September 2020 to hand over their list of demands on the union's national day of action. Picture: Kgomotso Modise/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) on Thursday threatened to call a strike if government failed to respond to its demands for improved working conditions for front line workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The union held a national day of action where a memorandum with 15 demands was handed to the office of the president in Pretoria.

Nehawu demanded safer working conditions for front line workers in the fight against COVID-19, saying that substandard personal protective equipment (PPE) was being given to workers.

The union has demanded a response from government within the next five working days, failing which they would intensify their strike action.

Nehawu called on government to help them to be liberated from exploitation, just as the union supported the African National Congress (ANC) in the fight against apartheid.

Nehawu’s general-secretary, Zola Saphetha, said that government should remember who had put it in power.

“It’s up to the president to answer us or not. What we know is that he was our candidate, we were the first organisation to propose him to be the president of this country,” Saphetha said.

Saphetha accused government of exploiting workers for their skills by not putting their lives first.

“Our members are caught between a rock and a hard place. When they complain, they are dismissed. When they comply, they die. What more must we do?” he said.

COSATU THREATENS STRIKE ACTION

Meanwhile, Cosatu said it was planning a national one-day strike in October to protest corruption.

“COVID-19 has not suspended the labour relations actions, therefore we have a right to demonstrate and to march. Other federations have also supported our call [and] all workers must unit on the 7th,” said Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi.

Nehawu accused government hospitals of not complying with occupational health standards.

“We don’t want COVID-19 committees. We want health and safety committees that will discuss matters related to risk assessment where we highlight hazards and dangers, and they can therefore put mechanisms in place to save the lives of workers,” Saphetha said.

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