Thursday 29 February 2024


GOVERNMENT yesterday intimidated health workers against engaging in strike action beginning today over poor wages and working conditions, with the responsible minister Douglas Mombeshora accusing the former of having a hidden agenda.

The health workers, through the Apex Health Council, on Monday gave the government a 48-hour notice to down stethoscopes to press for better wages in United States dollars.

Yesterday, Mombeshora issued a veiled threat to the health professionals intending to go on strike.

Addressing journalists on the sidelines of the Project for Improvement of Health Services through the 5D-Kaizen-TQM approach meeting, the Health and Child Care minister said no strike would take place.

“As for the strike, I don’t think any Zimbabwean health personnel will go for a strike,” Mombeshora said.

“I heard that those who want to start wanted to start today, but nothing of that sort has happened.

“Those who harbour such intentions but did not have prior dialogue with us or the recently started Health Service Commission should be working on a different agenda.”

Mombeshora said they summoned the organisers of the strike and told them that they “can only go for a job action if they are looking for something else apart from the welfare issues”.

“They should come forward to tell us who they expect to solve those other issues. I urge them to come forward and we work on it together,” he said.

Health Apex Council leader James Sibanda told NewsDay that they had put the strike on hold pending discussions with associations representing health workers.

“I cannot say yes or no regarding going forward with the strike, but we are going to have an all associations meeting tomorrow (today) at 9am to see how we move from there,” Sibanda said.

The health sector has been hard hit by a mass exodus of doctors, nurses and other experienced personnel protesting poor salaries and working conditions.

The majority have left for the United Kingdom in recent years, with estimates putting the figure at over 3 000 since 2022.

In a notice to the Health Services Commission, the Health Apex Council said its members were leading pauper lives.

“Health workers are severely affected by the following reasons as already raised in the position paper: Non-engagement of health workers on remuneration and conditions of service, exclusion of health workers on the April 2023 cost of living adjustment, non review of health sector specific allowances, very low basic salary, housing and transport allowances which are now less than US$10 combined at the prevailing interbank market and poor grading among health workers,” they said.

In 2018, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga grabbed international headlines after firing over 15 000 striking nurses.

He was forced to reverse the decision a few days later.

Chiwenga was accused of using “military-style tactics” to intimidate health workers from downing tools.

During his time, the ministry announced plans to ban doctors and nurses from striking for more than three days under proposed amendments to the Health Services Act.

Under the changes, worker representatives charged for inciting nurses and doctors to embark on strike action deemed illegal faced jail terms. Newsday


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