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Health Workers Protest Unpaid Hardship Allowances

16 May 2024 by Limpho Sello

Patients in Thaba-Tseka, Mokhotlong, and Qacha’s Nek are left stranded after clinicians went on industrial strike due to delayed payments of their hardship allowances.

The strike began on May 13, 2024. Staff representative Tanki Ranthimo told Uncensored News that workers decided to strike after the Ministries of Health and Public Service failed to fulfill the government’s commitment to increase their hardship allowances from M275.00 to M1,000.00.

“Initially, we had asked for a M5,000.00 hardship allowance, but we were asked to reconsider and settle for M1,000.00 because all workers needed to be considered as well. We agreed to reconsider, but unfortunately, we accepted an offer that has never been implemented to date,” Ranthimo said.

Ranthimo accused the state of dragging its feet for two years without reaching a resolution.

“The sad reality is that while this issue drags on, we are the ones who continue to suffer, as the M275.00 makes no difference to our lives in this economy,” Ranthimo said.

He explained that the current M275.00 hardship allowance was set in 1993, and at that time, it was sufficient for health workers in hard-to-reach areas. However, Ranthimo said the allowance is no longer adequate in 2024.

He said workers wrote several letters to the Ministries of Health and Public Service and had in-person meetings as well, but nothing has changed.

He mentioned that the only thing they received from the two ministries was a commitment, and at some point, they stopped responding altogether.

“We wrote a letter in March (2024) to inquire whether our allowances had been prioritised in the 2024/25 fiscal year. We received no response, so we decided to initiate a shutdown by downing tools and have invited other ministries,” Ranthimo explained.

He emphasised that the staff members are resolute in their decision not to perform any duties until their grievances have been addressed. Therefore, their shutdown will continue until an amicable solution is reached.

Meanwhile, a letter dated May 14, 2024, purportedly signed by the Ministry of Public Service Principal Secretary, Makhoabane Ledimo, warned aggrieved staff members to cease their shutdown, as failure to do so would result in the implementation of a “no work, no pay” policy against them.

“The Ministry wishes to bring to your attention that once you shutdown government offices, this means you withdraw your services which will be a breach of your conditions of employment as set out by the Minister of the Public Service pursuant to section 14 (1) of the Public Service Act 2005.

“Take further notice that should you embark into the stated shut down, you will be embarking on an illegal strike let alone the fact that by law you are not allowed to strike, and by so doing, your employer will have no option, but to invoke the no work no pay rule as provided for under regulation 49(1) of the Public Service Regulations 2008 or take disciplinary measures against you,” read the letter.

The letter then advised workers to resume their normal duties while the issue of reviewing allowances is being pursued with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

It further implored workers to understand that the said review is not time-bound, as it depends on a number of macro and microeconomic factors that need to be considered.

“I urge you to be patient and allow the process that is already being dealt with between the two Ministries (Public Service and Finance) to be completed,” read the letter.

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On May 6, 2024, Health Minister Selibe appealed for the workers’ patience. Mochoboroane expressed concern for the health staffers regarding their allowances, noting that they had written to the Ministry of Public Service after receiving their concerns.

He said the response his ministry received highlighted that the issue affects all civil service eligible for the outdated mountain allowances, hence the need for their inclusion.

 “I want to assure you that as the Ministry of Health, we understand the challenging working conditions you face here (hard to reach areas), and we will not rest until the issue of your mountain allowances is addressed.

“We recognise that you deserve this allowance, as it will make you feel fairly compensated for working in the mountains.”

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