Now that government has upped its wage offer to 8.5%, the time has surely arrived for unions and the state to return to the negotiation table. For what it's worth, I think that making an offer that is 0.1% less than the unions' demands smacks of gamesmanship on the part of government; a kind of schoolboy playground "nyah nyah, we didn't give you what you wanted" type of thing, but in the greater scheme of things, if you earn R10,000 per month, you're talking about ten bucks, for crying out loud!
But the question is, why should I care anyway? While I sympathise with the quest by workers to receive a "living wage", let's be real here: (a) we live in a democracy, which means that no-one was forced to become a teacher or a nurse. It would be like me giving up my lucrative commerce position to come into ministry, then bitching about the low stipends (!); (b) the original 7% offer was already more than 1% above inflation; and (c) having a "right" to strike should imply that those who don't want to strike should have the right not to strike without fear of intimidation.
Any sympathies I may have had for the plight of the strikers evaporated when I arrived at Town Hill Hospital the day before yesterday and saw filthy wards, patients who had not been cared for, and a week's worth of laundry (if you think your washing basket at home looks bad after a week, imagine a psychiatric hospital with 13 wards!). Not the fault of the staff who stalwartly remained on duty - they have been runnung themselves ragged 24/7 for the last week. Add to that the intimidation, the traumatised patients and staff still on duty, the hassles of us trying to get in and out in doing our relief work, and the car in the parking lot with slashed tyres and smashed windscreens, and quite frankly I would be inclined to "negotiate" with the strikers by means of some "five-fold ministry" applied in a brutally percussive manner, if you know what I mean?
And if any of my readers think that I should be unbiased as a minister, be fair to both sides, etc., let me respond by saying that while Jesus fed and healed the one side, He was calling the other side "a brood of vipers". Hardly what I'd call "unbiased". Given Jesus' preferential option for the poor, coupled with John Wesley's call to not only go, but to "go to those who need us most", my allegiances are squarely and firmly with the hospital and its patients, and right now the strikers can go and get stuffed - even if some of them ARE Methodists!
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