Cleaners enter seventh month of protest action
AS THE sit-in by disgruntled cleaners at Frontier Hospital enters its seventh month, the cleanliness of the regional referral hospital is deteriorating.
More than 80 cleaners contracted to Sbomvana Cleaning Services started the sit-in in September following the alleged lack of payment of wages while queries were also raised about outstanding bonuses (”Pay us first”, April 29 2016).
Following complaints from various community members about the cleanliness of the hospital, The Rep visited the facility on Tuesday.A nurse was seen carrying bags of refuse while another was mopping the floor of one of the passages.
Bags of garbage could be seen inside and outside the premises, while a reader sent in a photo of a pool of blood in a passage. Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo has since confirmed Sbomvana’s contract ended in September last year and the department was finalising processes to appoint a new cleaning company.
“Those cleaners are not supposed to sit in at the hospital, their company is no longer contracted by the department. We are finalising the process of getting a new company to take over.”
He said there was a court interdict in place against the Sbomvana cleaners.“The challenge is with their cleaning company and the problem has resulted in the forceful occupation of the hospital by the workers. They do not want anyone to clean and are also throwing the dirt around.”
The cleaners were adamant this week that they would remain on the hospital grounds until they were paid. Sbomvana director Milton Ncwabe recently told The Rep that the newspaper must not phone him again as he was no longer contracted to the department of health.
Cleaner Mandla Peter said the matter had been referred to the labour department.“We will continue with the sit-in. The department of health must take responsibility because we were working on their premises.
“Our employer just left us without saying anything. We will not back down. There will not be a new company contracted to clean here while our issue is not resolved.”Department of labour manager Mike Ngqolowa said they could only assist the workers with their Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) as the wage dispute would have to be handled by the CCMA.
“I spoke to them yesterday and we are trying to get UIF forms from the employer for us to process their claims. Our mandate is to deal with issues of employees while they are employed. Once they are dismissed we have a limited role to play as the department.”
A patient, who did not want to be named, said the hospital was filthy.“This is horrible, considering that we are already sick and now we are in a dirty environment.”
A nurse, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said the conditions had a negative impact on staff. “People think this is only affecting the patients, but they forget that they come and go. We have to be here every day, so sometimes we clean because we also want to work in a clean environment.”