Cape Town – The government and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) on Thursday returned to the negotiating table after almost a week of protests.
Healthcare services have been disrupted at hospitals across the country since Monday, with reports that four people had died as a result.
The union is demanding a 10% salary increase, but the government is offering only 4.7%.
According to Mail&Guardian, Nehawu general secretary Zola Sapetha confirmed the union was participating in the talks, facilitated by the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council, to try to break the deadlock.
“What we draw strength from going into this meeting is the hope that a solution can come from somewhere. There is at least some commitment to find a better way of resolving this situation we find ourselves in,” the report quoted Sapetha as saying.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday expressed concern over the ongoing strike, saying that workers had the right to strike but that right was not “absolute”.
Speaking during a question and answer session in the National Assembly in Cape Town, Ramaphosa said: “We are all concerned about the violent nature of the strike that is under way. Workers in our country have the right to freedom of association, they also have the right to strike, but that right is not absolute. It’s not absolute because there are certain workers who are in essential services.”
Earlier, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at least four people may have died as a result of the ongoing nationwide strike.
At least 4 people have died due to the strike actions so far. Phaahla said they would update the media on the number should it increase. @TheCitizen_News pic.twitter.com/GWK68WYP9W
— Reitumetse Makwea (@reitumakwea) March 9, 2023
“At least four people are likely to have lost their lives in a manner which we can attribute directly to the strike. We have a legal team which we are consulting to look at what are our options in that regard,” Phaahla said.
On Wednesday reports said that an ambulance transporting a critically injured child was attacked by striking nurses at a KwaZulu-Natal hospital.
According to News24, paramedics had been transporting the child on advanced life support to the hospital when protesters stopped the ambulance.
Protesters reportedly attempted to remove the child from the ambulance and assaulted one of the paramedics, the report said. The child was eventually admitted to hospital and treated.
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Compiled by Betha Madhomu