Monday, 24 December 2018

DOCS SUSPENDED AS STRIKE WIDENS

THE Health Services Board (HSB) yesterday suspended 530 junior doctors without pay and benefits for embarking on an illegal strike and failing to heed a call by their employer to return to work. The suspension is with immediate effect.

The junior doctors went on strike at the beginning of the month demanding a review of their salaries and general working conditions.

The junior doctors were suspended for 14 days to pave way for investigations into allegations of violating labour regulations after a labour court ruled recently that the industrial action was illegal.


The doctors ignored the ruling in which they were ordered to immediately return to work because they provide an “essential service” according to the country’s laws.

“This letter serves to advise you that in terms of section 6 (1) of the Labour (National Employment code of conduct) Regulations Statutory Instrument 15 of 2006 (the code), you are hereby suspended from duty for a period of 14 days from the date on which this notice is served,” wrote HSB executive director, Ms Ruth Kaseke, to the doctors.

She said the suspensions followed the ruling on Saturday by the Labour Court declaring the strike illegal.

“This suspension is premised on the fact that you did not report for duty from 01 December 2018 to 22 December 2018 and, additionally on other dates subsequent thereto whilst participating in collective job action, which has since been declared upon by the Labour Court to be unlawful under case number LC/H/APP/1025/18 dated 22 December 2018,” wrote Ms Kaseke.

The doctors had protested that the HSB had taken the matter to the Labour Court in the midst of negotiations.

Ms Kaseke noted that although Section 65 of the Constitution provides for labour rights and permits employees to go on collective job action, the same section permits the existence of a law that restricts the exercise of the same rights to maintain essential services.

She said the law prohibits health workers from embarking on industrial action.
“Section 104(3) as read with section 102 of that Act (Labour Act) prohibits persons engaged in an essential service from engaging in collective job action and the Labour [Declaration of Essential Services] Notice 2003 declared doctors, radiographers and other person engaged in health service, to be persons engaged in an essential service.

“Consequently, your engagement in collective job action as aforesaid was thus unlawful,” said Ms Kaseke.

She barred the junior doctors from visiting their workplaces during the suspension period.
“Your suspension is without pay and benefits and while you are on suspension you are prohibited from continued attendance at the workplace or continued performance of your duties, as the case may be, as this may be conducive to unbecoming or indecorous behaviour or may lead to further instances of collective job action or other acts of misconduct, or hinder or interfere with investigations into your misconduct or the gathering of evidence relating thereto,” she said.

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association spokesperson Dr Mthabisi Anele Bhebhe said the doctors were disturbed by the suspension.

“It is disturbing to note that the HSB has gone further to suspend our members before they even complied with the Labour Court judgement, which was handed down over the weekend. This makes everything complicated,” said Dr Bhebhe.

Junior doctors went on strike on December 1 demanding payment of salaries in US dollars, provision of medicines at public hospitals and improvement of their working conditions. Herald

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