Strike threat by doctors over salaries

A STRIKE is looming in the public health sector and the South African Medical Association says it will not stop its members if they decided to down tools.

Public service doctors have indicated they will go on strike soon unless the government met their demands.

The more than 7000 practitioners are not happy with this year's Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD), which includes salary increases. The doctors say the final offer signed by the employer on June 4, with respect to the OSD addendum, was not what they had agreed on.

The signed offer was intended for categories of medical officers grades 1 to 3 and specialists grades 1 to 3. They will get between 1,5 percent and three percent salary increases respectively.

Dr Phophi Ramathuba, chairperson of the Public Sector Doctors Committee, said: "These are the categories in which the majority of them received below par increases with last year's OSD.

"We anticipated a far better offer that would begin to address the inequities of the OSD for these job categories. We believe we failed to negotiate and deliver what our members requested, largely due to the complexity of the bargaining process.

"OSD must be as it implies, occupation specific. The current OSD negotiations are multi-occupational.

"This presents a dual problem where the employer gives you a lower offer and fellow unions accept it against your express mandate," Ramathuba added.

Sama members held meetings in different provinces last weekend to express their disappointment at the employer's offer. The issue of the strike was raised and supported by many.

Ramathuba said the implications of this offer could have a negative impact on the already ailing health system.

"Since implementing phase one of the OSD last year, Sama has seen an exodus of doctors from the public sector. It's due to a lack of commitment in addressing them. But we call upon our members to uphold the high standards of clinical care. They must transfer accountability to those who were elected and appointed as stewards of the public healthcare system," Ramathuba said.