Striking nurses move to front of firing line

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

The past nine days have seen public sector industrial action unprecedented in its levels of intimidation and violence.

While the numbers participating have declined, the disruptions at hospitals notwithstanding, we have seen increasing acts of intimidation and obstruction.

We have seen educators failing in their duty to act as examples to those entrusted to their care.

We have experienced essential service workers putting their agendas above the right to life of those they have committed to serve.

The right to strike can never supersede the right to life.

Public servants are custodians of the law. If they do not respect the law, the fabric of our society will fall into shreds.

We remain steadfast in our resolve to proceed against those essential services workers who took part in the action, principals who closed schools without authority, and strikers who engaged in acts of intimidation against other workers, those in their charge and the public.

Yesterday [Saturday] a meeting of the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Service and Administration and health MECs agreed that letters of termination of service be issued with immediate effect.

These nurses are being sacked in the interests of patients and the country. We cannot have casualties or deaths in our hospitals because of the selfish interests of those charged with the lives of others.

Protecting the lives of those who require care must be our first priority. Strike is not battle. It is a legitimate route to air our differences within the law. Even in war those who tend the wounded are guaranteed their safety.

The government needs to guarantee the right to strike as well as the right of citizens to access essential services.

The right to work must be respected and is no less a right than the right to strike.

The security forces have the duty to protect the rights of individuals and the community, including access to education and healthcare. They are not there as strike breakers.

We thank them. We also commend the managers who ensured that services continue as well as the hundreds of thousands who reported for duty.

The government has put a substantial offer on the table, representing a 47percent total cost increase from our original offer.

There are revised salaries for nurses, legally qualified professionals in Justice, and school-based educators and principals. The housing allowance and medical subsidy has increased; a 25percent adjustment to special allowances; and the full implementation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act for work on public holidays and Sundays.

Professionals will get substantial increases. This system will attract and retain talent.

We will not condone violence and intimidation and the SAPS and SANDF will be deployed .

As negotiations continue I appeal to all public servants to report for work. We are confident that a resolution will soon be reached.

We have undertaken to serve the people of South Africa. Let's fulfil that commitment.

lThis statement has been edited