May Day Action: Safety & security for all Health Workers! Equal Access to Health For All!
Statement issued on May DAy 2020 by SAFTU, NUPSAW, YNITU, DEMAWUSA, NUCWOSA, TAC, & C19PC
You Can’t Mask the Grave Health Hazards We Face!
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not a Luxury
Personal Protective Equipment It’s a fundamental Workers and Human Right!
We demand PPE for the Safety of all Health and Care Workers and the Safety of the Communities they serve!
We are in the grip of the merciless Global Covid 19 pandemic. Our work, communities, daily lives and the future of our children, will be changed forever. This is not the time for business as usual. This is not the time for complacency. Without exaggeration, the future of millions of our people is on the line. On the 23 March 2020, The President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa announced a lockdown as a preventing measure to cut the spread of the virus and mostly assuring workers that they will be no loss of pay during this period, he further retaliated that government will practice health and safety at workplace.
On May Day this year, front line health workers based in our hospitals, clinics, municipalities and communities are making a key life and death demand. They are demanding personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers who come into contact with patients suspected of having the Covid19 virus.
All over the world, it is now recognised as critical that health workers are given the protection they need to do their jobs. If health workers here become infected, the healthcare system, already under strain because of austerity, will be dramatically undermined, and when that happens whole populations will be in danger.
Look at world news! Hundreds of thousands of deaths have occurred because healthcare systems have been unable to respond properly. Here in South Africa there are chronic shortages of masks, gowns, gloves, decontamination facilities, and the very basic equipment to measure temperature, blood pressure, diabetes and other preconditions that we now know can be fatal for the poor who contract the virus.
That is why, this May Day we are focusing on the needs of our front line health workers, and calling upon ALL workers to give the campaign for PPE their active support.
Those politicians who say that the virus affects everyone equally, regardless of wealth and class are being economical with the truth. It is the world’s poor and vulnerable who are now dying in their thousands. In South Africa, where there is a shocking health deficit for the poor, we could be looking at a catastrophe. There is no time to waste.
Healthcare for the Rich and Hell for the Poor!
There is no doubt about it, the gross and continuing inequalities in South Africa, where a tiny fraction of the population own and control more wealth than the majority of people added together, can no longer be tolerated or justified.
We can no longer stand by when private and exclusive healthcare is available only for the rich, and the poor have to rely on run down public facilities that have been starved of resources for decades and are often located long distances from where people live. Let us be absolutely clear about this so that there can be no room for doubt. If we do not act now, the virus will decimate large sections of the working class and poor. This will not only cripple services, but the working class itself.
Decades of austerity, blatant capitalist exploitation and chronic corruption have meant that even basic services and opportunities for the poor and the working class have been placed on hold, despite the rhetoric of our mis-leaders in Parliament. The virus will take many lives, but it is the underlying conditions, that are equally to blame and Government must answer for that.
Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality have meant that the working class and the poor continue to pay for an economic crisis not of their making. The Covid19 crisis has made this unbearable situation worse for millions of people, and has shown beyond doubt that the needs of workers and the poor have been systematically marginalized. That’s why we say, the system itself has now got to change.
Time for a Working Class Response!
We are not naïve. We know that the exploitation of workers and the so-called free market have created the conditions for the virus to take hold, and run rampage through poor communities. Those workers on the front line in hospitals and communities have been trying their best to cope with the upsurge of patients, and they know that worse, much worse, is to come. And what has been the reaction of their employers?
In one municipality, ambulance crews were told to either go to work with completely inadequate equipment and risk infection of themselves and their patients, or go home, and forget being paid. In hospitals throughout the country, highly trained professionals are being told to re-wear contaminated protective clothing against all protocols. In community clinics and projects, community care workers are put at risk on an hourly basis. Highly trained nursing staff are forced to moonlight in the private sector in order to make ends meet, sometimes working double shifts for weeks on end. This is not a system that is sustainable, or effective. In fact it is dangerous. Every single one of these workers mentioned here should be given protection. Every community must have access to a reliable and appropriate source of PPE. It is an outrage that they are not.
Our friends of the Treatment Action Campaign have taught us the necessity of community mobilization, and the need to work hand in hand with health workers of all categories, to forge linkages between workplaces and communities, and keep up the pressure.
The bosses know that the overwhelming number of workers in healthcare services are deeply committed to providing care and treatment for their patients. They know that healthcare workers cannot turn their backs on those they have sworn to help, and we should all be grateful for that. But that does not mean that they should be exploited and put at risk themselves!
We also know that because of the commitment of healthcare workers, especially at this time, taking industrial action is not an easy option for them to take, but make no mistake, unless the Government acts swiftly and decisively, we intend to make sure the plight of health workers will be taken up by all sections of the working class, and healthcare workers themselves.
That is why, regardless of Union or Federation, we urge food workers, miners, workers in engineering, transport, banking, chemicals, the informal sector, the public sector and manufacturing, to step up and defend our comrades who are today on the front line. To prepare the ground now for solidarity actions with healthcare workers, and use the industrial and community muscle we still have to make sure that healthcare workers are not alone! And if Government refuses to listen and act, then its forward to an escalation of action leading to a General Strike!
We welcome the arrival of health workers from Cuba and regard them as comrades, but it does beg the question. How can a poor, 50 year blockaded country like Cuba manage to send over 1000 highly trained health care specialists to different parts of the world, and we cannot even provide primary healthcare for our own people with an economy at least fifty times the size of Cuba’s?
Defending our healthcare workers at this time is not just essential, but a first step in making sure that out of this crisis we intend to assert a truly working class agenda, based on the needs of our people, and not on the profiteering of a greedy anti-social minority.
Defending all those workers who are capable of playing a role in defeating the virus includes those thousands of workers on EPWP schemes, and those employed as Community Health Care workers, many of whom have been in crucial supportive roles to existing health workers, clinics and hospitals. The fact that these workers continue to be discarded after working on vital projects is completely irresponsible. EPWP workers must be retained, made permanent and put to work. Community Healthcare workers must be properly rewarded, and afforded terms and conditions befitting their essential contribution. Many of these workers have accumulated vital skills and knowledge that could serve our communities. Now is not the time for prevarication. Inaction is costing lives!
We are determined to rebuild the power of the working class, and unapologetically we aim for nothing less than the total transformation of our society where capitalist exploitation is a distant memory, where the common good is central, and a socialist South Africa built out of the chaos and madness of a broken, wasteful and anti-people society.
May Day, May Day, May Day: SOS Save Our Services
On May 1st, International Workers Day, a representative group of frontline health care workers, mindful of the need for social distancing, will peacefully gather and protest outside Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, and outside hospitals and clinics in other parts of the country, for a symbolic protest, representing millions of workers.
In doing so we offer our support to all those other Unions and organisations that have been campaigning for PPE and for the full implementation of pay agreements, and for a better health service. We urge them all to make common cause with us to defend the working class and the poor. Let us put the needs of the working class and the poor first! Rebuilding solidarity and trust amongst ALL public sector workers and their organisations has to start now. We cannot afford the luxury of a fragmented approach. On Workers Day we will all pledge ourselves to the unity of the working class. Now is the time to put those fine words into practice. Now is not the time, in the face of a looming catastrophe to allow petty or insignificant differences to divide our class!
The peaceful and socially distanced protests will draw attention to the chronic state of our public health services, health workers and community activists will tell their own stories of how they are being sacrificed and abused, and give evidence of how the logic of exploitation leaves the vast majority of our people at risk. In concrete terms they will be Demanding the following:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is fit for purpose, for all those who may come into contact with the Covid19 virus, and sufficient stock piles to offer effective protection to all.
- For a range of measures including safe transport, appropriate housing and welfare services, danger allowances and upholding the promise of no loss of pay or dilution of terms and conditions caused by the crisis to be applied for front line workers in institutions and in the community.
- For the total transformation of our health service system in consultation with healthcare professionals, healthcare workers and communities to put people before profits. In other words, nothing for us without us!
- For ALL workers and community activists to heed the call, and start making plans now to educate, organise and mobilise workers and their communities if the above demands are not met.
- Government must permanently employ all Outsourced Care Workers, and expand the service to meet community needs.
- Nationalization of all healthcare services during the covid-19 pandemic in order to have access to healthcare service for fair and equal services for all.
- Government to Provide Free Masks, Soap, Sanitizers and Gloves for all the unemployed and poor South Africans who unable to buy them since it’s compulsory to wear a mask during this period.
- Government to provide Rapid testing kits to all facilities as way of ensuring data is collected immediately.
- Proper training for all Community Health Care Workers and those on EPWP schemes.
- The escalation of effective decontamination and on-going disinfection of all facilities as per protocol.
- Action to be taken against all departments officials and managers who contravene the Occupational Health and Safety Act by forcing workers to work without proper Personal Protective Equipment.
- The speedy mass manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment in our country is critical in order to build stock piles, and provide jobs.
- Finally, we demand that Government at all levels acknowledge the role being played by community activists, civil society organisations and trade unions and involve them as significant role players in fighting the virus, and in reshaping the world we live in.
- We demand that all front line health care workers to be tested and screened as a priority, and the public at large.
- The testing of HIV, TB and Covid19 must be done concurrently during door to door testing when health care workers do testing.
We Now Give Notice: Please Take Note Government!
If the demands above are not responded to within five days of our May Day actions, we will be left with no other alternative than to take decisive industrial action, and we are confident that the vast majority of the public will be behind us, because they know that our health care system has been privatized, fragmented, underfunded and left to rot for years.
Now is the time to defend our health care workers. Now is the time to plan new forms of health care and other services that start with the needs of our people, and not profiteers.
Forward with Healthcare workers and the communities they serve.
Down with Private health-Care that sucks the life blood out of the public health system.
Down with Austerity and a return to Apartheid style working and community conditions!
Support Our Health Care Workers, Support Our Future Generations.
- The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)
- The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NUPSAW).
- The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU).
- The Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (DEMAWUSA).
- The National Union of Care Workers of South Africa (NUCWOSA).
- Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
- C19 Peoples Coalition Workers Rights Working Group (C19PC).
For more information contact:
- YNITU Deputy President- Fikile Dikomelang-0671988982
- TAC General Secretary- Anele Yawa-0648506521
- NUPSAW National Organiser-Solly Malema-0790751968
- SAFTU National Organiser- Lebohang Phanyeko-0763878607
- DEMAWUSA National Coordinator- Stephen Faulkner -0828175455
- NUCWOSA- Deputy President- William More 0670862174
- C19PC – Coordinator – Mark Weinberg, 0727249601