Contract nurses facing exploitation while agencies get rich, says union Denosa
Nurses are being appointed in the province to augment the hospital workforce as part of the response to the Covid-19 second wave.
However, some nurses are being employed on job contracts exceeding three months without benefits or permanent employment.
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) says that is unlawful labour practice.
Amendments to Section 198 of the Labour Relations Act state that an employee engaged by a temporary employment service for the purposes of rendering services to another client is deemed to be an employee of that client, and the client is deemed to be the employer of such employee, after three months.
Denosa's provincial secretary in the Western Cape Thokozile Tyilekile explains that this law is not being complied with.
Despite extended lengthy job contracts, she says nurses are not being absorbed as permanent employees.
Temporary or contract nurses are hired by hospitals through nursing agencies (otherwise known as labour brokers) that are well paid while nurses remain unprotected.
Tyilekile likens the practice to human trafficking and says something must be done to address the exploitation of contract nurses who face tough working conditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
These people who employed by the temporary employment services, which are the agencies, do not have any benefits.Thokozile Tyilekile, Western Cape Provincial Secretary - Denosa
In terms of the Labour Relations Act, it is clear that... After three months, these people that are employed by the agency should be absorbed into the system of the company to be permanent. However, you find that there is no compliance in this legislation.Thokozile Tyilekile, Western Cape Provincial Secretary - Denosa
This has been our cry to the companies to employ and comply to this legislation... It's breaking the law to employ a person on a temporary basis for more then three months without absorbing them to the system.Thokozile Tyilekile, Western Cape Provincial Secretary - Denosa
As labour, we are of the view that this issue of using these agencies is not correct... it's more like human trafficking.Thokozile Tyilekile, Western Cape Provincial Secretary - Denosa
Meanwhile, the Department of Health says it's against the exploitation of nursing staff.
The department's deputy chief nursing officer Veronica Taschl says officials are in the process of formulating legislation regulating how nursing agencies operate.
Labour laws are the ones that protect our nurses. We want our nurses to have full-time employment so that they can get the benefits and not be exploited and also because it will improve the quality of their work-life and improve the quality of care.Veronica Taschl, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer - Department of Health
We definitely are not for the exploitation of nurses. The labour laws are in place. The only other thing that should be in place are laws that govern what nursing agencies do, and we are currently working on those regulations right now.Veronica Taschl, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer - Department of Health
Listen to the discussion on Weekend Breakfast with Sara-Jayne King:
Source : Reinart Toerien/EWN