Challenges organizing CHW’s

The Community Health Workers held their first national workshop on Organising from 17-20 October 2019 at the House of Movements in Johannesburg, organised and facilitated by Khanya College. The workshop showed that there are many challenges for CHWs in all the eight provinces represented. In KwaZulu-Natal the CHWs are trying to recruit and organise a forum of workers working in two government departments, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development. The workers get different stipend amounts, R2100 from DoH and R3500 from DSD, although they both work for the government and do similar work.

The CHWs from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State are members of the SA Care Workers Forum (SACWF) and the trade unions in these provinces. In SACWF the CHWs have dual membership and pay monthly subscriptions to the unions and an annual fee of R80 for first-time registration with the SACWF, and R60 for renewal every year. The SACWF also raised problems that the unions are not responding to the grievances of CHWs. For instance, CHWs are not covered by health and safety legislation and there is no compensation for workers who contract diseases. It is also difficult for the working class to always pop out money which they do not have. These issues were debated and the workshop discouraged dual membership because it is not assisting CHWs and also encouraged CHWs to form forums and not join unions.

In Mpumalanga, although CHWs are organising a forum, it is not registered and there are problems mobilising members because of intimidation from management. The local group of CHWs have opened a WhatsApp group to communicate with each other but this is still difficult. In the Northern Cape the CHWs also face challenges of organizing members because clinics are far apart. All provinces agreed that building team work amongst the CHWs is necessary. The workshop proposed that CHWs unite and raise one voice, mobilise, take each other more seriously and read more.

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