Health unions in the Northwest, Hospersa and Nupsaw, joined management and threatened to fire Community Health Workers (CHWs) who wanted to attend a national meeting on CHWs in Bloemfontein. The CHWs wanted to attend a national summit of CHWs from all provinces to be held on the 27 February 2019.
CHWs from Northwest claim that On the 26 November 2019 Nupsaw allegedly held a meeting with the Department of Health in Northwest and threatened any CHWs who have made a commitment to attend the summit. According to the CHWs, they were told that if they attended the meeting they would get a final written warning and may face dismissal.
Some of the CHWs had sacrificed their time and worked hard over weekends to make up the time they would be away at the meeting. The Department is also denying CHWs’ use of their own leave days. CHWs claim that facility managers also refused to sign leave forms of CHWs.
Hospersa, another health union, also has encouraged the department to fire all CHWs who will be attending the summit, according to CHWs. In a recording sent out to CHWs (which Karibu has in its possession), a Hospersa North West official is heard saying that CHWs must not attend the summit and that management has a right to discipline CHWs who attend. Clearly going against CHWs’ freedom of association, the Hospersa person said CHWs can only attend meetings authorised by the National Department of Health.
A spokesperson from Khanya College, a labour support organisation working with CHWs, said “For many years CHWs have suffered abuse from health departments, NGO managers and union leaders. CHWs are denied their basic right of freedom of association”.
CHWs are currently questioning this attack from the unions and the department. The CHWs went to the Chief Directors office and has raised this issue. Although some CHWs fear for their jobs, CHWs are in high spirits have not backed down. According to a CHW from North West, they will be travelling to Bloemfontein to participate. They have vowed to stand and fight for their rights.