No well-meaning Zimbabwean would do that – Minister says as health workers announce job action

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By Staff Reporter

The Minister of Health Douglas Mombeshore has dismissed the impending health workers’ two-day strike which starts Thursday.

The Health Apex Council, an amalgamation of labour unions within the sector in a letter dated February 26 gave the government a 48-hour-ultimatum to address their grievances.

The concerns raised by the healthcare workers include non-availability of work equipment, non-review of health sector-specific allowances, very low basic salary, and housing and transport allowances which have been heavily eroded by inflation.

“The health workers are formally giving a 48-hour written notice (from Monday the 26th of February 2024 to Wednesday the 28th of February 2024) for a collective job action in terms of section 16(2)(b) and (c) of the Health Services Act.

“The collective job action will commence on Thursday the 29th of February 2024 and end on Saturday the 2 of March 2024 if the grievances have not been addressed. The Health Apex panel has on numerous occasions wrote to the employer highlighting the plight of health workers. Sadly, to this day nothing has materialised,” read the letter addressed to the Health Services Commission.

Zimbabwean nurses, already reeling from other factors affecting the country’s economic and political scene, are now earning just about US$10 if their local currency salaries are converted at the government’s interbank rate.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Mombeshora said “I don’t think any well-meaning Zimbabwean would do that.

“Those who want to engage in industrial action have other motives other than not serving their country’s health service. We called them to discuss what they want the government to do for them and if not, may they tell us who is capable.”

The Health Minister said he is looking forward to engaging with the workers first as their concerns can not be addressed “by the click of a finger”.

Added Mombeshora, “We are on record as the Ministry of Health stating that we are looking into their concerns of bettering their conditions of service. As I said, the government does not operate in a manner where if a grievance is raised, by the click of a finger they are addressed. It weighs all workers’ issues and finds means to ensure that their working conditions are improved. I hope they come to us for a dialogue and we take their matters to the Health Service Commission.

“First thing to do is to take note of these concerns, they are then categorized. The Ministry of Finance then considers how it can tackle them according to available funds. These issues cannot be solved in a day.”

In 2023, President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed a law banning health workers from strikes exceeding three days as they are considered essential services.

In previous years, prolonged strikes by health workers have crippled the public health care system which is already strained by equipment, medicine shortage and a severe brain drain.

Thousands of health workers have over the past decade fled Zimbabwe’s chaotic economy for better opportunities in Europe, America, New Zealand and Australia.