South Africa: Cape Town Healthcare Workers Fear Losing Their Jobs

Community healthcare workers from the Cape Town areas of Blue Downs, Mfuleni and Driftsands fear they may lose their jobs.

The workers are employed through a network of Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) contracted to the Western Cape Health Department, according to Sithembiso Magubane, spokesperson for the provincial health department in Khayelitsha and Eastern substructure.

This comes as NGO Afrika Tikkun is about to transfer its employees to NGO Khethimpilo from 1 April.

Last week, workers protested outside the Zolile Malindi Centre in Mfuleni. Workers sang and waved placards with: "Interviews must fall", "Khethimpilo must take on all of us" and "No one must lose a job".

Worker Nomabhaso Ndulo said Afrika Tikkun project manager Yvonne Arendse informed them that they would have to submit their CVs to Khethimpilo and be interviewed before they could be rehired.

Arendse referred GroundUp to the health department.

But Ndulo said workers were not prepared to submit CVs and be interviewed. "Some of us have worked for more than ten years," she said. "We are 102, but the NGO will choose and hire only 43. We want the NGO to hire all of us."

Worker Ntlalontle Gugu said Khethimpilo would increase their salaries from R2,400 to R3,500 per month but would reduce staff.

Healthcare worker Zingisa Mdingi said, "I don't want to be interviewed for a job that I have been doing for more than ten years. If Khethimpilo doesn't want to hire us, it must give up the tender ... We don't want anything that involves submission of a CV. We want everyone to have a job."

Mdingi said she worried about the patients. "Some have to have their sores dressed daily. Others, especially TB sufferers, have to have their tablets counted."

Nomawethu Vuthula said, "I'm worried that the NGO will give first consideration to workers who have matric certificates. I don't have the matric certificate, but have a four-year experience and job knowledge."

"I'm scared of losing my job," said Patheka Khwebe. "I'm battling to support my [four young] kids ... What will I do if I fail the interview?"

Mfuleni South African National Civic Organisation chairperson Zingisile Ndamse said, "We as a community don't want their number to decrease. In fact, the health department must give us more community health workers as the number of people staying in Mfuleni increases every day."

"The caregivers play a crucial role in the community ... They bring medications to residents who are too sick to walk to the clinic ... They look after people who have no families."

Provincial Organiser for the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers Vuyani Shwane said the union had asked Afrika Tikkun to put the transfer of the workers to Khethimpilo on hold and to return the health workers' CVs to them. The union also wants a meeting with the department, healthcare workers and community leaders to discuss the transfer.

Shwane said it was the health department that required the workers to reapply and which only wanted to hire workers with matric certificates. The union wants Khethimpilo to retain all the health workers.

Vincent Titus, Community Services Head for Khethimpilo, said, "I understand that the workers have fears. All these things will follow the correct and due procedure. We will follow the law when we employ."

He said he didn't know yet how many people Khethimpilo would employ. He said the number would depend on the number the health department put in the agreement. He said the NGO had not yet signed a formal agreement with the department.

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