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Updated 18 March 2016

Community workers' jobs saved for now

The jobs of at least 400 community health workers may have been temporarily saved after a court ruling that the Gauteng Department of Health violated labour laws.

The jobs of at least 400 community health workers may have been temporarily saved as the Labour Court ruled that the Gauteng Department of Health violated labour laws when it advertised their jobs without notice.

Represented by lawyers from Werksmans Attorneys, Gauteng community health workers took the provincial department to court after the department advertised their jobs in early January without notice allegedly in violation of labour law.

Subsequently, workers allege the department told them to re-apply for their jobs and that only some workers would be hired back, according to a letter sent by workers’ attorneys to Head of Gauteng Department of Health Dr Barney Selebano.

On Friday, the Labour Court found in the community health workers’ favour ruling that despite their status as contract workers, community health workers are effectively department employees and should have received notice prior to their jobs being advertised.

Image: Community health workers celebrate with their attorney after the Labour Court ruled that the Gauteng Health Department violated labour laws when it advertised their jobs. (Credit: Thabo Molelekwa)

The ruling means that community health workers will keep their jobs for now.

According to Gauteng Department of Health Spokesperson Steve Mabona, the department will not appeal the judgment.

“The judgment is fair, according to our interpretation of it,” Mabona said. “The court pronounced that these employees can be referred to as government employees, however their employment conditions does not change from that of being contract employees of the department for a stipulated period.”

Workers will now meet with lawyers to discuss taking possible further legal action to secure permanent employment through permanent or fixed-term contracts.  

William Mokoena is part of the community health worker group, the Gauteng Community Health Care Workers Forum. Mokoena has welcomed the court’s decision.

“I am so happy and cannot express how I feel right now,” said Mokoena, who added that his family depends on his monthly stipend but that a lack of payslips had made it hard to access services like credit. “This is the beginning of my future and my family’s.

“It was so hard working without any payment or a pay slip,” he added. “Now I will be able to plan for my children.” – Health-e News.

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