CIVIL servants, through the Apex Council, yesterday rejected government’s pay offer of a 50% raise and US$75 allowance for three months as doctors and nurses declared a full-blown strike.
BY BRENNA MATENDERE/ DARLINGTON MWASHITA/PRECIOUS CHIDA
Protests by nurses started at Parirenyatwa Hospital and later spread to Mpilo Central in Bulawayo, Chinhoyi Hospital and Sally Mugabe Hospital, among others. Police were called in the morning to disperse the protesting nurses at Parirenyatwa.
The disgruntled health workers at Mpilo criticised their employer for giving them paltry increments which were not commensurate with the galloping inflation.
Some of the placards carried by the Mpilo health workers read: “50% of zero is zero”, “Frontliners being given peanuts really! Please have mercy on us” and “We are professional not slaves”.
One of the nurses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, said they were working without personal protective equipment, sanitisers and risking coronavirus infection.
“We come to work because we love our jobs, nursing is a calling. We chose this profession because we want to save lives, but if the situation is not conducive for us to do our work, we have no option but to put our tools down,” the nurse said.
The nurses demanded that citizens and the State broadcaster ZBC stop tarnishing their image on social media as they perform their duties, but were rewarded with slave wages and poor working conditions.
Mpilo Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya declined to comment on the matter saying those protesting were seeking an audience with their employer, not the hospital administration.
“You must phone the nurses association and employers in Harare as the nurses are demonstrating against their employer, not me,” Ngwenya said.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo on Wednesday said the health workers were poorly paid.
“Nurses now want salaries in US dollars. They want money that has purchasing power,” he said.
He said the least-paid nurses were earning a net monthly salary of $2 000 and warned that the boycott could continue and spread to other hospitals.
The health workers, under the Health Apex Council, yesterday formally informed their employer, the Health Services Board (HSB) that they had with immediate effect embarked on a strike over meagre salaries rendered useless by the harsh economic climate.
Other health workers like pharmacy technicians, radiographers, midwives, medical specialists in training as well as hospital food services supervisors also joined in the strike.
The leaders of all the 14 health workers unions and associations signed an official letter of notification for withdrawal of labour delivered to the HSB.
The development came after they spent the whole of Wednesday locked up in a meeting following the Parirenyatwa protests and the subsequent announcement of a new salary offer by government on the same day.
“This letter serves to inform you that the health workers as you might have witnessed have taken matters into their own hands and have withdrawn their services,” the letter by the health labour unions, read.
“Therefore, we would like to officially communicate as the Health Apex that health workers have with immediate effect withdrawn their services until their demands have been met.”
The health workers claimed they communicated with government on May 23 over the harsh economic situation in the country and the issue of price hikes, but there was no response as well as the convening of the Health Service Board negotiating platform.
“Since that date, the country’s economic situation has continued to deteriorate with the annual inflation reaching 785% and the exchange rate reaching $90 to 1 USD… the current $3 000 salary for health workers cannot sustainably take care of their families under the prevailing socio-economic conditions…”
Some of the health workers representatives, who appended their signatures on the letter, include Zina president Dongo, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association leader Dean Ndoro, Zimbabwe Confederation of Midwives chairperson Netsai Marowa, Senior Hospital Doctors Association chairperson Admire Jira and Moses Chikuni from the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union.
In a related development, civil servants through their supreme representative body, the Apex Council, yesterday also rejected a 50% pay hike announced by government.
Apex Council chairperson Cecilia Alexander effectively derailed government’s plan to please its restive workers by rejecting the offer on the basis that the body was not consulted prior to the adjustments.
“Matters to do with conditions of service have to be a product of consultations between social partners at forums provided for at law. No party should unilaterally decide for others as is the case here,” Alexander said.
The Apex Council leader also pointed out that the US$75 allowance is “thumb-suck and not with our input” further urging government to call an emergency meeting to resolve the impasse.
She added that Apex Council was happy that it had finally dawned on government which previously insisted on sole use of the moribund Zimbabwe dollar currency, that the economy had actually dollarised.
Teachers also rejected the government offer, demanding the restoration of US-pegged salaries that were turned into local currency without factoring the parallel market exchange rate.
Progressive Teachers Union president Takavafira Zhou said the 50% salary increase was not a product of negotiation and fell far short of teachers’ minimum expectation of US$550.