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Workers at Vuna Healthcare Logistics, the largest pharmaceutical depot in Limpopo, have embarked on a strike that has left health authorities worried that the situation could affect primary healthcare services.
The warehouse, situated in Seshego outside Polokwane, supplies medicines to all state clinics and hospitals in the province.
Talks between the company and the workers over wage increases have reached a stalemate. .
According to Plaas Maboa, a spokesperson for the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union, negotiations between the union and management have failed to resolve the dispute.
"We have tried to reach common ground with management but all our efforts have failed to yield any positive results," Maboa said yesterday.
He claimed that management was reluctant to address the workers' grievances.
"This has left us with no option but to go on strike.
"If they continue to ignore our complaints we will continue picketing," said Maboa.
The strike involves 85 workers who include cleaners, drivers, receptionists, pharmacists and general workers.
Warehouse manager Makena Langa refused to comment about the strike and said: "No comment, chief. I am not willing to talk to the media on this issue."
Maboa said the lowest paid worker takes home R3100, and they are demanding to be paid a basic salary of R4500. The highest paid worker gets R30000 a month.
The workers also want the company to subsidise them with training costs for the Pharmacy Learner Basic Course.
Phuti Seloba, a spokesperson for the provincial department of health, held talks with the warehouse management on Monday, but his attempts to persuade them to reach a settlement with the workers were unsuccessful.
Seloba conceded that the strike would negatively affect primary healthcare services at state-owned clinics and hospitals.
"The situation does not augur well for the department because patients are going to suffer," he said.