Doctors and nurses have issued a 14-day notice to go on strike, saying health workers have had enough of austerity measures.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube last year introduced austerity measures in a bid to arrest the economic decline, which the government blames on former president Robert Mugabe’s regime.
The measures, however, have spawned a collapse of the local currency introduced in February this year and seen incomes being eroded.
Doctors, who last year embarked on one of the longest job boycotts as they pressed the government for better pay, said they will join other health workers who have also threatened to go on strike.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) said negotiations with the government had failed, hence their resolution to go on strike. “The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association would like to affirm its true position regarding the health service bipartite negotiations,” the doctors said in their notice.
“Our members and alumni stand in solidarity with the Health Apex position of issuing a 14-day ultimatum to the government following unsuccessful negotiations concerning the welfare of all cadres in the health service and beyond.”
ZHDA secretary-general Mthabisi Bhebhe said doctors had been patient with the government and they felt their grievances were not being taken seriously.
“Health workers have had enough of austerity and cannot take anymore doses,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association said a meeting held on Thursday last week resolved that workers in the health sector would go on strike in the next two weeks to force the government to review their salaries.
“The Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association is in support of the position taken by the Health Apex following (Thursday’s) meeting held in Harare; the employer is, however, failing to be sensitive to the plight of its employees by continuing to pay our members paltry RTGS salaries, whose original value was long eroded last October. We, therefore, support the Health Apex’s position to maintain the 14-day ultimatum should the employer fail to respond to our plea,” the association said.
The nurses bemoaned the fact that prices of basic commodities, transport, accommodation and general cost of living had continued to go up, further making it difficult for them to afford a decent lifestyle.
Other bodies representing health workers that resolved to strike include the Government Therapists’ Association (GTA) and the Zimbabwe Environmental Health Practitioners’ Association (ZEHPA).
“The Government Therapists’ Association stands with the Health Apex Council’s decision to declare a deadlock on cost of living adjustment and subsequently giving the employer 14 days’ notice to decisively deal with the pending issue since October 2018; GTA is showing disquiet in the failure by the employer to award suitable remuneration for health workers,” GTA said in a notice.
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo last night said he was yet to receive the ultimatums issued by the health professionals.
“I can’t comment on an issue that I have not yet seen,” he said.
In April the government made a marginal review of salaries of civil servants, but the unions say the increment has already been eroded by inflation.
Teachers last week petitioned Parliament over the deteriorating working conditions. The Almagamated Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said its members went on strike last week pressing for a salary review.
ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure was last week allegedly abducted and severely assaulted by suspected state security agents, who accused him of influencing teachers to go on strike,.
The attack was condemned by the European Union and other Western embassies.
Besides impending strikes, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is facing prospects of street protests organised by the main opposition party, the MDC, over the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
The government accuses civil society activists of mobilising for violent protests to topple the president. Seven activists were recently charged with treason over the alleged plot.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) said it was worried about the crackdown against civil society organisations(CSOs) by the government.
“Nango calls on government, in particular the security line ministries, to desist from willy-nilly arresting of CSOs and targeting their officials,” the association said in a statement.
“CSOs play a key role in contributing towards national development and have never waivered from this role.
“It is, therefore, imperative to choose to dialogue rather than arrest officials where the government may be ignorant on the work of NGOs.
“Government should not set barriers or intimidate institutions that aim to bring sustainable development to Zimbabwe.”
Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe in November 2017 promising to turn around the economy and introduce reforms that promote democracy but he has made the majority of Zimbabweans poorer than they were under Mugabe.
— The Standard