SECTION27 is a public interest law centre that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect, promote and advance human rights. Our name is drawn from the section in the South African Constitution which enshrines everyone's right to health care, food, water and social security.
In 2007, 2009 and 2010 strikes took place in the public health sector which resulted in a serious disruption of health care services. Many users of the public health system were not able to access vital services or collect their medication. Earlier this year SECTION27 was approached by a number of concerned organisations, including Rural Doctors Association of South Africa (RuDASA) and the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) to assist in finding a resolution which recognises the right to strike and also protects patients’ rights and prevents loss of life or serious harm being suffered by patients during a strike.
We are a range of organisations who campaign for the right to health, and/or who provide health care services to poor people who depend on the public health sector. We fully support the efforts of the government to improve health care services. We also support unions and their members who are at the front line of health care provision, and who justifiably try and draw attention to the difficult conditions in which most health care workers operate.
TAC and SECTION27 call on government and unions to find an urgent solution to the human resource crisis in the health system.
On 6th September 2010 the public sector strike was suspended to allow trade unions to consult their members on whether to accept the government’s revised offer on pay and other conditions. We urge the union members to seriously consider this offer as the public health system cannot afford a return to the strike. We are aware that many workers will regard acceptance of the offer as a compromise and that it may not satisfy public sector workers’ demands for a reasonable standard of living or a salary commensurate with the contribution they make to our society. Nonetheless we believe that it should be accepted.
A week into the public sector strike the Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27 regret that no agreement has been reached between striking public service workers and the government. We support the demands of workers and their right to strike. But we regret the growing polarisation, pain and loss of life. This is now a political crisis that requires political leadership and a solution.
The Social Justice organisations listed below support the right of public sector workers to take industrial action to enforce their demand for a reasonable salary increase and other demands related to their conditions of employment. Quality service delivery depends on a fairly remunerated, motivated and accountable public service.