By TOTO TSARNEBA
A group of nurses at Settlers Hospital went on strike on Monday, 27 June, demanding to be paid an 8-12% ‘rural allowance’ increase which was agreed upon between unions and the provincial health department at a 2019 bargaining council.
They claim they are part of 3 000 enrolled nurses (ENs) and nursing assistants (ENAs) in rural hospitals around the province who are due rural allowances worth around R1 200 a month.
Around 20 nurses sang and chanted outside Settlers on Monday. Placards stated that their nursing unions Nehawu and Denosa had failed them.
Settlers Hospital spokesperson Yonela Dekeda said the rural allowance was negotiated under a collective agreement negotiated and signed by the employer and Nehawu in 2004. The allowance was paid to all nurses working in ‘rural areas’ but was stopped in 2007.
Dekeda said the enrolled nurses and nursing assistants currently protesting are not ‘professional nurses’ who qualify for the rural allowance under the 2019 bargaining council agreement. Instead, they fall under “lower categories”, she said.
The provincial department confirmed that only the 28 nurses who were named and won in the arbitration matter against the state are due to benefit from the allowance.
EC health department chief financial officer Msulwa Daca asked for a week to engage with the union representatives about the dispute, but hundreds of nurses in the province, including at least 20 at Settlers Hospital, downed tools on Monday.
Settlers Hospital nurse Siphokazi Mapembeni said they were not demand something new. “It is rightfully ours as nurses working in rural areas,” she said.