Health staff threaten another strike


Limpho Sello

DISGRUNTLED health professionals have given the government until tomorrow to pay them promised risk allowances failing which they will embark on yet another crippling nationwide strike from Monday.

If the strike proceeds, it would be their third time downing tools this year demanding risk allowances, among other grievances.

The health workers first went on strike in April this year demanding risk allowances and personal protective equipment (PPE). Initially, the government ignored their demands but eventually gave in.

The strike was called off after the health workers held two-day meetings with the then Health Minister Nkaku Kabi, his then deputy ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli and other senior ministry officials.

After their meetings, the health workers, through their spokesperson, Busa Qhala, said the government had agreed to pay them risk allowances calculated at 30 percent of each health professional’s monthly gross salary.

But the workers embarked on another strike in July after saying the government had not honoured its promises.  The crippling strike lasted two weeks after which the government promised to pay them allowances ranging from M2000 to M3500 each monthly.

However, this week the workers said the government had failed to honour its promises and they would on Monday strike again.

Mr Qhala told the Lesotho Times yesterday they had informed the government of their intention to strike to protect themselves from the risk of contracting Covid-19.

Mr Qhala said they had decided to strike because the government had failed to fulfil its promises since April. Apart from the outstanding allowances, they were having to make do with no adequate PPE.

“We have been in talks over risk allowances for far too long and every time we expect a breakthrough, there is always a barrier as we are taken from pillar to post,” Mr Qhala said.

He said in July they were asked to provide details of all workers who were supposed to get risk allowances to the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) but were later told that the organisation did not have any money. Afterwards, they were told that the Ministry of Finance had queried the list of beneficiaries.

The workers had been promised that the allowances would reflect in their bank accounts by Tuesday this week. However, by yesterday, none of the workers had received the allowances.

Mr Qhala said Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo had promised that all outstanding allowances would have been paid by 31 August 2020 but that too had not happened.  There was no explanation from the government about why the allowances had not been paid, he claimed.

Mr Maqelepo could not be reached for comment last night.

However, his ministry’s Acting Director General of Health Services Dr ‘Malitaba Litaba said she had been alerted to the health professionals’ latest grievances was affording them prompt attention.

Dr Litaba appealed to the health professionals to remain at work while their grievances were being addressed. It would be “irrational” for them to strike in these trying times when their services were badly needed to save lives.

“I told them that their payments are still being processed …They need to understand that these things take time …. We are doing our best despite glitches in our system…,” she said.

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