WITH just one week to go before the controversial takeover of Nelson Mandela Bay’s primary healthcare clinics by the provincial government, unions are crying foul, saying metro nurses have been bullied into signing their transfer agreements.
In total, there are about 400 primary healthcare workers in the Bay of which 43 have refused to sign transfer agreements which state that they concede to being under provincial governance rather than that of the metro.
While the provincial Health Department has stressed the transfer is merely bureaucratic and no workers under its care will be disadvantaged or lose their benefits, it said those who refused to work under the provincial government risked losing their jobs.
Unions, however, claim that conditions of service for former metro workers will be cancelled when the provincial government takes over, although province has denied this.
Unions also claim that up to 36 nurses have been pushed into early retirement and that others are in the process of throwing in the towel and resigning.
Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union regional chairman Chris Hay said the primary healthcare workers were supposed to have a meeting with department officials yesterday to discuss their grievances, but this was cancelled because the health superintendent-general, Dr Siva Pillay, was not available.
"We have accepted the provincialisation, that’s no longer an issue. We have a problem with the conditions of service that are going to be chopped.
"The poor workers don’t know if they are coming or going because they [the province] have not spelt out what their benefits will be. Now we hear that [provincial] Treasury has taken over paying the workers, but still there is no guarantee that they are going to be paid,” Hay said.
Last week, Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana announced that the provincial Treasury would manage the supply of services, materials and equipment, and the office of the premier would manage staff.
Hay said the workers wanted to postpone the transfer for about 12 to 18 months, which would allow them enough time to iron out the conditions of service.
SA Municipal Workers’ Union branch chairman Armstrong Poswa said the municipality, provincial Health Department and unions needed to have a signed agreement in place that spelt out all the conditions of service for the transfer.
"It is only proper to have a consultation process and a transfer agreement signed by labour [unions], the municipality and the department because it’s no secret that the department cannot manage their administration processes. You can see that with the doctors and nurses who have not been paid.
"We know the municipality has not made provision in their 2012/13 budget to pay the health workers, but we are asking them to find a way to pay the workers for two to three months until we have a guarantee from province,” Poswa said.
Provincial Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the workers who had not signed the transfer agreement were "frustrating the process”.
"We’ve made written undertakings and we will be taking over the services from July 1. We have challenged the employees to say if there are disadvantages they must point them out to us,” he said.
Referring to the workers who were currently in limbo, Kupelo said there was no way the department could pay people who were not on the system. The deadline to sign the agreement was last Friday.
Kupelo confirmed that the department would transfer all the money owed to the Bay municipality by the end of the week. The municipality is owed R40-million.
In a document drawn up by Pillay, to acting municipal manager Themba Hani, he said: "Where staff on pension opt to maintain their pension and/or medical aid with the municipality, the department undertakes to pay these benefits to the municipality.” This was subject to the signing of a service level agreement.