Nursing union and  health dept clash over stay-away protest

Nursing union and  health dept clash over stay-away protest

A trade union representing about 15 000 nurses at public and private health facilities in South Africa, has threatened  to boycott jobs from 1 May if the government doesn't adhere to their longstanding demands

The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU), an affiliate of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), says its pleas for personal protective equipment (PPE), expensive transport, and "poverty-level" salaries have been ignored by the government.

However, the Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja says if the union calls for a stay away, it will be "a criminal offense in line with the Disaster Management Act" which the police can look into.

Tempers flared following President Cyril Ramaphosa's address to the nation on Tuesday night which did not address their needs.

What caused a stay away protest?

Ramaphosa announced a range of socio-economic relief measures for South Africa as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic but did not mention healthcare workers in his speech, the union said.

General secretary Rich Sicina, who is also a nurse, said they were hoping Ramaphosa would announce relief measures for nurses.

"One thing that made us angrier is when Ramaphosa addressed the issue of economic and social relief measures, he completely excluded those who are in the deep end… Many of us are from poverty backgrounds, we have families to take care of," Sicina said.

In a statement on Wednesday, the union said they expected Ramaphosa to announce a six-month income tax break for frontline workers and nurses in particular, who are the "least paid among healthcare professionals" and who will not be getting salary increases this year.

"The least the government could do is give nurses an income tax break or COVID-19 danger allowance in these trying times since they are risking their lives by being in the deep end of the fight against this virus,"

Maja said the South African Revenue Service dealt with tax issues.

"Financial relief is for those whose financial situation has been affected by the lockdown. Issues of tax are managed by SARS," Maja said,

The union wants the government to address Risky working conditions and

Transportation cost.