by Jeff Wicks, News24
Durban – The Department of Health has issued a stern warning to EMS staff who threatened to embark on a wildcat strike on Wednesday.
The South African Private Ambulance & Emergency Services Association (SAPAESA) also sent a warning to their members, alerting them to possible threats of violence.
Sources within the state emergency service sector however said that the threat to strike – in response to the dismissal of nearly twenty paramedics after the last bout of strike action – was little more than posturing.
Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi warned paramedics against downing tools.
“We have noted media reports on threats of a strike by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff. If these reports are true, the Department would like to remind EMS staff that their work is classified as essential services, which makes it illegal for them to embark on strike action.
“Even if EMS were a non-essential service, which would allow them to strike, they would still be required to follow legal processes in accordance with the Labour Relations Act before embarking on a strike,” he added,
“If EMS staff embark on this illegal strike, the department will not hesitate to take action in accordance with the law, including applying the principle of no work, no pay.”
Threat of violence
A warning issued by SAPAESA to private ambulance providers focused on the possible threat of violence.
“…Please be aware that EMS Staff participating in the strike in KZN have threatened to attack private services that assist the provincial services during this time. Please urge your staff to be vigilant during this period.
“Caution is further advised while off-loading patients at a provincial hospital, collecting patients in underprivileged areas and treating patients in public areas. Services are further urged to ensure that their bases, vehicles and staff vehicles are secured and locked at all times,” it read.
A source within the EMS, who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press, said that paramedics had yet to make good on the threat.
“They are threatening to stay away but it wouldn’t be very clever. The ones that want to are all sitting on final written warnings from the last strike and a bunch were fired. It all relates to the OSD [Occupation Specific Dispensation] payments, and they want their fired comrades to get their jobs back,” he said.
The OSD is an allowance in line with experience and expertise, which some EMS staff insisted has never been paid by the Department of Health.