GOVERNMENT has fired 77 doctors who have been on strike for better conditions for over two months while disciplinary action against the other medical professionals on industrial action is still ongoing.
The development comes as government failed to stop today’s protests by its impoverished civil servants, under the Apex Council, after failing to come up with a salary offer in yesterday’s crunch meeting where it also announced that this year’s bonuses will be staggered between November and December.
The government doctors went on strike in September citing incapacitation as their salaries have been eroded by high inflation while also complaining of poor facilities and inadequate medicines in public hospitals.
But the government is accusing the doctors for being political and described their job action as illegal. Speaking at a post-cabinet media briefing in Harare last night, Information minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said disciplinary hearings for the doctors by the Health Service Board commenced on November 1 and of the 80 doctors charged, 77 were found guilty and discharged.
Mutsvangwa claimed necessary measures were being instituted to ensure that the situation in the health sector returns to normal in the shortest possible time.
Commenting on civil servants’ planned protest march, Mutsvangwa said negotiations have been taking place between the Apex Council and the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) and in their meeting yesterday the government had advised them that they had other priorities other than to adjust their salaries.
“In the latest meeting that took place this afternoon, it has been agreed as follows: Government does not dispute the need to give a cost of living adjustment to its workers but was faced with various competing national demands (which) include payment of the annual bonus that will take a significant portion of resources and due to restricted revenue inflows will be staggered between November and December 2019,” she said.
Mutsvangwa said the government would be able to provide cushion through the payment of the annual bonus which would be paid inclusive of allowances contrary to the previous years where it was paid based on basic salary.
She said government was also putting in place measures to contain loss of the workers’ purchasing power through the tripartite negotiating forum technical committee workshop to be held in Kadoma for the first time from November 10 to 15 this year which would ensure that stakeholders come up with a social contract that is aimed at bringing the social partners to a common position.
But Apex Council spokesperson David Dzatsunga confirmed there was no breakthrough in the meeting which also piled misery on the poverty-stricken workers by announcing that bonuses will now be staggered.
“The meeting was a damp squib,” Dzatsunga said. “Government brought no offer and even the bonus is now staggered from November to December.”
He added: “The demonstration will proceed as scheduled starting at 11am at PSA Building through to Kaguvi Building in Central Avenue and then to New Government Complex where a petition will be delivered to the concerned ministers.”
Dzatsunga said the government said it was still consulting on salaries, but chances for salary hikes were unlikely as it was busy with the 2020 budget preparations after satisfying itself that it would not get money to fund salary hikes.
“In short, government said there are no funds for salary hikes in this year’s budget,” he said.
Government workers are demanding a salary adjustment pegged on the US$ interbank rate.