WORKERS from other sectors have started joining a tools down job action by health personnel and teachers who are demanding United States dollar salaries.
The strike entered its third day yesterday, leaving most major public hospitals paralysed, while critically-ill patients were being turned away.
At Harare’s Parirenyatwa Hospital, the NewsDay crew saw patients lying on pavements unattended to. Some of them had come from far away for reviews for chronic diseases, while others sought treatment for ailments such as hypertension and diabetes.
A desperate patient said: “We have wasted our transport money coming for check-ups as per our scheduled reviews. I am supposed to do blood tests, but was told to come back again because doctors and nurses are on strike.”
In Bulawayo, nurses who have been on a go-slow, joined the strike and were not attending to patients at different institutions.
The health personnel turned up for work, but were not performing any duties.
“We spent the whole day watching nurses and doctors on strike,” a patient told NewsDay.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo said doctors and nurses in most parts of the country had joined the strike.
“Nurses from different parts of the country joined the strike just like other employees because the salary negotiations have been on-going for more than 14 months but are yielding nothing,” Dongo said.
The Health Service Board and government have not proffered a solution to the salary impasse.
Responding to questions from MPs in the National Assembly yesterday, leader of government business, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the striking health workers must be patient.
Ziyambi said government will never peg salaries in US dollars, despite Finance minister Mthuli Ncube telling journalists on Tuesday after a post-Cabinet media briefing that government had not yet ruled out paying civil servants salaries in US dollars.
“Government is still in a negotiation process with health workers on the issue of salary increases. An offer was tabled to the Apex Council and negotiations are continuing. The health workers were advised that the process is on-going and they must wait until the conclusion of that process.
“It’s not very correct that the majority of them are on strike; it’s only the few who were on strike while a majority are at work and they have been advised that negations for salary increases are on-going and, therefore, they must go back to work,” Ziyambi said.
He added: “Our currency is the Zimbabwe dollar, and we are working towards removing whatever is causing our currency to decline. We cannot; and we will not determine salaries in US dollars. We will never go to a scenario where we will peg salaries in US dollars.”
Teachers are also on strike and have rejected a proposal by government to increase their salaries by 100%, saying it would only result in the lowest paid teacher earning a measly $36 000.
Meanwhile, workers other sectors have also embarked on strike action due to the high cost of living and are demanding payments in US dollars.
Yesterday, workers from Telecel and Premier Service Medical Investment (PSMI) downed tools.
PSMI workers complained of non-payment of salaries.
When NewsDay visited PSMI offices, workers said they had gone for more than two months without salaries.
In a circular, PSMI said: “It is important to note that the Treasury is yet to review its cash flows to PSMI as promised in the meeting held on 13/4/22 wherein both Premier Service Medical Aid Society and PSMI were requested to submit their monthly requirements to operate viable. Instead the Treasury instruction for PSMAS to pay 60% of the employer contribution to pay 3rd party service providers still stands, resulting in PSMI receiving inadequate cash flows which are less than the current PSMAS debtors position.”
Telecel workers said they downed tools due to low salaries paid by the telecommunications company.
In a letter dated June 21, workers claimed incapacitation, saying the company was failing to remit their medical aid and funeral policy contributions despite deducting the money from them.
“The company has been facing operational challenges for the past five years evidenced by poor network coverage, major network outages, obsolete equipment among others which has resulted in significant loss of market share and lower revenues. We have not seen any tangible efforts to turn around the fortune of the company,” read the letter copied to Information Communication Technology and Courier Services minister Jenfan Muswere, the Telecel board chairperson James Makamba and the Communications and Allied Services Workers Union of Zimbabwe (CASWUZ).
Telecel workers committee vice-chairperson Tafadzwa Chinyoka referred NewsDay to CASWUZ and Telecel chief executive Angeline Vere.
CASWUZ secretary-general David Mhambare said: “The workers have been engaging the management for a long time. Unfortunately, the engagements yielded no positive incomes. It’s not like they’re expecting something luxurious. They’re genuinely incapacitated.”
He said most of their salaries were below $35 000.
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