By Leopold Munhende, Chief Correspondent
GOVERNMENT was on Saturday, in a last gasp attempt to stop industrial action by poorly paid nurses, expected to start Monday.
A letter from the usually bullish Health Services Board (HSB) chairperson Paulinus Sikosana, to nurses’ representatives begged them to convince their members to abort the promised strike as government was working on issues they raised.
Nurses are demanding salaries in US dollars and have declared incapacitation because of what they argue are meagre wages in the weak local currency.
“Please be advised that the Board and indeed government is committed to the resumption of negotiations, and you will be notified as soon as the process, which is now at an advanced stage, is complete.
“The need for a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is noted. Government is seized with this matter, and you will be advised soon. The review of health sector specific allowances is also being investigated,” reads Sikosana’s letter.
“Please be advised that treasury has allocated resources for this exercise in the 2022 budget to clear all outstanding performances advancements.
“Your request for the resumption of payment of donor-funded retention allowance is noted. Discussions with the concerned partners are being finalised for the resumption of the payment of this allowance.
“I urge your staff associations to reconsider the position to withdraw labour as government is making all efforts to address these and other related issues.”
Unlike soldiers whose wages were hiked, a few months back, nurses are still earning just about ZW$18 000, an equivalent of less than US$100 on the illegal market.
“Tomorrow, all hospital should close until they give us US dollar salaries,” said Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU) president Robert Chiduku, in a statement on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Sikosana’s plea.
“On Monday, June 20, 2020, incapacitation goes ahead unhindered. The notice of incapacitation was given to the employer, and we still maintain the same position.
“Do not be moved by threats and intimidation that will start pouring. That is bound to happen in any struggle.
“If all union leaders speak with one language, the employer will not persecute, terrorise and abduct trade unionists, because they will be all speaking one language.”
The last time nurses went on industrial action, Vice President, and acting health minister Constantino Chiwenga, who was then Acting President fired most of the workforce.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) members have also been abused in the past because of calling for withdrawal of labour at hospitals buy health professionals.