On the 28th of March 2017, at Hillbrow Community Health Centre, Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs), were requested by Smartpurse to sign new contracts for the financial year 2017-2018. Smartpurse was hired by the Department of Health to administer salary payments to CHWs in Gauteng. Throughout 2016 into 2017, CHWs have been struggling for permanent status in the Department. Many CHWs have faced victimisation during the first round of contract signing last year and this year was much the same.
As Smartpurse began the signing process in the Hillbrow clinic, there were 13 Smartpurse officials on site to register people. CHWs were allowed entry by producing their identification document, and putting their thumbs on the biometric machine.
According to the Smartpurse officials, it was indicated to all CHWs that this was an open day where they needed to comply by submitting all the necessary documents.
During the day, as the process of signing continued, Smartpurse refused to sign some CHWs; particularly those who didn’t have reports and training certificates, and those who hadn’t signed the contracts last year for various reasons. This was allegedly because they did not appear on the Smartpurse system as employees.
Clinics that were affected by this was Vlakfontein, Eikenhof and Orange Farm Clinics. One official confirmed that CHWs who had problems with signing the Smartpurse contracts would be visited in their clinics to resolve these problems in between the signing process.
Many care workers in Gauteng have also highlighted that their jobs are extremely precarious. Some workers also claim that they were dismissed for no valid reason, and in such cases, due process was seldom followed through.
Many CHWs were not happy after signing their Smartpurse contracts and felt they are being exploited and undervalued, even though they contribute enormously to the wellbeing of the communities they serve. They were also unhappy because of some clauses that appear in the contract; particularly the conditions of maternity leave, sick leave and the e-Wallet payment system.