Zimbabwe’s Health Workers Strike Over Poor Wages

Government dismisses planned industrial action as unpatriotic and irresponsible

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe’s health workers, including doctors and nurses, have announced a two-day strike over low salaries starting Thursday. The move has been criticized by the government, which accused them of having ulterior motives and not serving their country’s health service.

The Health Apex Council, a coalition of labor unions within the health sector, issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the government on Monday, demanding an urgent review of their working conditions. The council said that their salaries, which amount to less than US$10 at the current interbank market rates, were no longer sustainable in the face of hyperinflation and economic hardship.

Government response

The government, however, dismissed the planned strike as unjustified and irresponsible. The Minister of Health, Douglas Mombeshora, said that he was surprised by the council’s decision, as the government was negotiating with them and had made some concessions.

“I don’t think any well-meaning Zimbabwean would do that,” Mombeshora said. “Those who want to engage in industrial action have other motives other than not serving their country’s health service. We called them to discuss what they want the government to do for them and if not, may they tell us who is capable.”

Mombeshora added that the government was aware of the challenges facing the health sector and was working to improve the conditions of service for health workers. He said that the government could not afford to increase salaries at the moment, but was looking into other ways of addressing the workers’ concerns.

He also urged the health workers to reconsider their stance and engage in dialogue with the government, rather than resorting to strike action that would jeopardize the lives of patients and the public.

Impact of the strike

The strike, if it goes ahead, is likely to have a severe impact on the already strained public health care system in Zimbabwe, which has been struggling with shortages of medicines, equipment, and staff for years. Many health workers have left the country in search of better opportunities and living conditions abroad, leaving behind a depleted workforce that cannot cope with the demand for health services.

The strike could also affect the delivery of essential services such as immunization, maternal health, and HIV/AIDS treatment, especially in rural areas where access to health facilities is limited. The strike could also expose the health workers to legal action, as the government has previously declared them as essential service providers who are not allowed to strike for more than three days.

Hope for a resolution

Despite the standoff between the government and the health workers, there is still hope for a peaceful resolution of the dispute. The Health Apex Council has indicated that it is open to dialogue and negotiation with the government, as long as their demands are taken seriously and addressed promptly.

The council has also appealed to the public and other stakeholders to support their cause and pressure the government to act in the best interest of the health sector and the nation. The council has also assured the public that they are not abandoning their duty to save lives, but are only fighting for their rights and dignity as health workers.

The government, on the other hand, has expressed its willingness to continue engaging with the health workers and finding a lasting solution to their problems. The government has also acknowledged the importance of the health sector and the role of health workers in ensuring the well-being of the population.

Both sides have expressed their commitment to finding a common ground and avoiding a confrontation that could have dire consequences for the health sector and the country. The hope is that they will reach an agreement soon and avert a strike that could worsen the already precarious situation in Zimbabwe.

Source: New Zimbabwe

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