200 African Nurses Told To Leave
September 1961 COHSE: the health care union Journal report
THE South African Congress of Trade Unions reports that 200 nurses at King George V Hospital,
Previously 20 nurses were sacked following a strike and meal boycott by African, Indian and coloured nurses at the hospital, in protest against the caning of nurses and very low wages (an African nurse receives about £12 a month, plus board and lodging; a labourer receives as little as £5 a month).
In the middle of July the Hospital Workers'
African nurses and labourers at the hospital decided to boycott food supplied to them on August 5, after the caning of 11 African nurses by a white sister-tutor because they were "not too bright at classes". The hospital was brought to a standstill when the African nurses marched to the superintendent demanding the expulsion of the sister-tutor and calling on him to investigate their grievances.
They were joined by Coloured and Indian nurses and all the non-white staff : labourers, clerical workers, cooks etc. The demonstration lasted about 8 hours, during which time hundreds of police were called out. the chief of police addressed the workers but was unable to persuade them to return to work.
The superintendent at last arrived, and after a great deal of argument agreed to investigate their grievances. He stated that he was not prepared to negotiate with the
The nurses are continuing the struggle. They ask for protests to be sent to the hospital authorities and for support for their demands, and also for donations. The address of the Hospital Workers'
It Should be noted that during this period the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) maintained links with the Whites only nursing union in
CANED AFRICAN NURSES PROTEST
Sir—The following is a copy of a letter I sent to the Superintendent of King George V Hospital,
In the Journal of the British Confederation of Health Service Employees (issue of September/October 1961) I read an amazing and shocking story of the caning of nurses followed by a naturally justified rebellion by well nigh the whole staff of your hospital and by the irruption of the police into the hospital. This appears to be about the ugliest incident that, together with many others, illustrates the thoroughly bad relations between an employing authority and its workers. The relationship appears to be characterised by intimidation against organising in trade unions and the refusal to grant fair conditions of employment.
Words are inadequate to express the indignation that such action arouses in all people who value human rights and human dignity. I know that Apartheid interferes with the normal functioning of civilised life and I can visualise that in some instances employers lack the independence or the courage to resist a damnable policy imposed on them from above.
However, the administrator of a hospital is in a position- that enables him to wield authority and power in accordance with the dictates of conscience, even in opposition to higher authorities whom racial prejudice has made unreasonable.
The incidents of August 5 and 16 last provided copy for an unseemly page in the professional journals of nurses and hospital workers. It is in your power. Sir, to redress a bad situation and to enable the editors of those journals to report on something good and hopeful coming out of