Health workers threaten to down tools, again

By Edward Mukaro
ZIMBABWE’s health sector has received another blow, in the wake of efforts to curb the COVID- 19 pandemic, amid calls by the Zimbabwe Health Apex Council encouraging the nation’s health practitioners to down tools till government meets salary demands and improves working conditions, this is according to an unsigned letter posted on micro-blogging site, Twitter, by the health body.
Barely three weeks ago, health workers from the country’s biggest hospital, Parirenyatwa, staged a demonstration demanding among other things allowances and better working conditions, while denouncing the buying of new top-of-the-range luxury vehicles for Health Services Board executives, while workers’ languish in poverty.
The country’s COVID- 19 statistics have recently taken a worrying upward trend with over 607 positive cases, 166 recoveries and 7 deaths recorded, so far.
Read the letter, “All health workers’ associations agreed that government does not seem intent on addressing health workers’ incapacitation and the issue remains unsolved.
“For that reason, all health workers will continue withholding their labour until government decides that its health workers matter and approaches them with a genuine intention to improve the situation.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the economy has dollarized despite governments’ shallow denials, health workers will not return to work until they are offered their salaries in United States Dollars, as they were on the first of October.”
The letter comes after the health workers’ representative body met government representatives at the Health Service Bipartite Negotiating Panel, where the ZHAC expressed displeasure at most of the things put on the table by the employer.
Highlights of the meetings’ outcome state the employer insisted that it had cushioned employees by introducing a Covid- 19 allowance of US$75, which will be used through special swipe cards rather than through actual disbursements of USD cash, while also adding that steps have already been taken to increase basic salaries, as well as, housing and transport allowances by 50 percent (%), stating that however, other allowances have not been increased at all.
Furthermore, the Government also insisted that the arrangement would be in place for the months of June, July and August, but no clarification was given as to when
Government’s position prompted ZHAC to state, “Crucially, and disturbing, the government insisted that through these payments, no more salary reviews should take place for the next 3 months and employees should be content with what they have been given until September when government is willing to start reviews again.
“The Health Apex Council notes with frustration that in essence, government has taken away the right of employees to collectively bargain for better conditions of employment for the next 3 months. In so doing, the Bipartite Negotiating Panel has been rendered useless and government has opted to do away with dialogue and instead approach matters as if it is the big brother of the panel.”

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