MANAGEMENT at Steve Biko Academic Hospital yesterday terminated the contract of the Born to Protect security company after its employees embarked on an unprotected strike, which massively disrupted services.
More than 200 security officers barricaded the hospital’s entrances with rocks, burning tyres and rubble from the morning, claiming they had not been paid. Police eventually intervened.
The guards also threatened to shut down the hospital today should payments not be made by the end of business yesterday. The guards said they were striking due to their payments being delayed and some not getting paid at all.
The hospital’s acting chief executive, Dr Mathabo Mathebula, said management was terminating the services of the company as the non-payment allegations and delays were not happening for the first time.
“Whether they are paid or not, the alternative is for us to terminate the contract with the company; they are privately employed by the company that is working for us. The company is appointed on a month-to-month basis.
“We have to terminate their services, because it is not the first month that they are not paying their people on time. They are supposed to pay them on the 15th,” Mathebula said.
“There were one or two ambulances that had to take a different route as the main entrance and Level 8 were blocked. The ambulances were directed to other roads to access the hospital.”
She said no patients were turned away, but they had to walk a longer distance as access to cars was blocked. Golf carts were used to fetch the affected patients where they were dropped off.
Subsequent to the strike, the same company sent another team, but Mathebula said this was not enough.
“There is no threat to the safety of patients or the hospital property,” she said, adding they were hoping to contract another company soon.
One of the security officers who had not received her salary said she felt used by both the company and hospital.
“I come to work every day to protect people and ensure they are assisted, only not to get paid, or to get my money 15 days late. I feel used by all these people.
“My fridge only has water and nothing else because of the delays, I’m a single mother of two and no one is assisting me,” she said.
Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa expressed concern about the disruptions. “This is unacceptable behaviour. We cannot allow the disruption of services and acts that compromise the safety of patients and employees. The department appreciates the support of the SAPS for helping to bring the situation under control.
“We call on the private security company to speedily resolve their labour disputes in a manner that does not affect their contractual obligations to the hospital.”
A shop steward representing the workers under the Academic Professional Staff Association union, Bernard Matsekoleng, said only 10 out of 210 officers had been paid. “Most of the officers did not receive their salaries on the 15th, so we went to the Born to Protect offices to find out why people were not paid but the gates were closed. Our calls are not answered and e-mails we sent bounced back, so that’s why we decided to strike.”