In Gauteng, former Covid-19 support staff demanded to be reinstated, outside the office of Premier Panyaza Lesufi, after their contracts expired. According to The Citizen, the workers claim they were appointed in 2020 to assist public hospitals across the province during the pandemic, and in March 2021, the hospitals terminated their contracts. However, the Independent Liberation and Allied Workers Union has accused the premier and the health MEC of failing to extend the workers’ contracts, as promised. They say that although they were hired as Covid contractors, their skills are still needed, and nothing in their contracts prevented them from working for the department beyond the Covid period.
The protestors say terminating their contracts was unfair, especially as they risked their lives during the pandemic, unlike other government employees who could work from home. Workers representative Tshepo Moholola says the government employed them on a persal system that closed the Sassa grants for their children, and now their children cannot attend school. The protestors claim that despite being frontline workers during the pandemic, they were now being called support staff, and the government was prioritising doctors and nurses while leaving other workers behind.
The premier’s spokesperson has not responded to a request for comment. The protestors are calling for reinstating their contracts, as their skills are necessary for the department. They argue that the department must provide a long-term position if there is an internal post or their skills are still needed. The protest highlights the plight of support staff who played a vital role during the pandemic but are now struggling to find employment.