The effectiveness and efficiency of labour relations processes and practices in the public hospital system with specific reference to Pelonomi Hospital (Bloemfontein, Free State)
Matebesi, Sethulego Zacheus
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The general aim of this study is to analyse and assess the factors/issues that have an impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of labour relations processes and practices in the public hospital system. Thus, the study is directed towards the analysis and assessment of "structural factors" (joint worker-employer committees) and "procedural factors" (discipline, dismissal, performance appraisal and grievance procedures) that direct and influence the labour relations process at public hospitals. The overall study design was first of all exploratory and descriptive, but of necessity also directed towards the development of suggestions for practical interventions in problem solving, decision-making and policy-making. The study was conducted at Pelonomi Hospital in Mangaung, Greater Bloemfontein. Eighty nurses and forty-two blue-collar workers, were the primary respondents. Other respondents included management at provincial and national level, trade union representatives and supervisors of blue-collar workers. Data was collected by means of structured questionnaires and a focus group session with supervisors of blue-collar workers. The systems and open systems theories directed the study. In this regard five themes were identified: working conditions and remuneration, trade unionism, strikes, grievance and disciplinary procedures, and labour relations practices. The majority of the respondents were female. Most respondents (nurses and blue-collar workers) reported dissatisfaction with their salaries and the late and/or nonpayment of allowances. Despite the important role that unions play at institutional level, there is a perception that they are fuelling discontent among workers. Potential causes of strikes appeared to be more closely linked to discrimination than to ineffective grievance and disciplinary procedures. Respondents' knowledge about the existence of grievance and disciplinary procedures was extensive. Largely because of a perception that workers are treated differently, the vast majority of respondents indicated that these procedures are handled inconsistently. In conclusion, it is essential that the poor chain of labour relations is broken. Firm foundations have been laid for transformation of labour relations in the public health sector, in general. A healthy public hospital system can only be created and preserved if all parties embrace the current changes.