HEALTH workers in the country’s public hospitals Monday declared a complete shutdown of the sector after government continued to pay a deaf ear to their plight.
Zimbabwe nurses downed tools some two weeks in protest over low wages and poor working conditions.
They have further rejected government’s 50% salary hike coupled with US$75 monthly allowance.
The Zimbabwe Nurses Association, in a Memorandum to all nurses in government-owned health institutions, said health workers had reached a breaking point and could not survive on their meagre monthly earnings equivalent to about US$40.
The association said “every affected member must immediately stay at home”.
“Government’s lack of action, and more importantly the refusal to engage the membership leadership on the on-going job action suggests to us that it has still not accepted that its workers are incapacitated,” the memorandum, dated June 29 reads.
“Had it so accepted, urgent steps to address this situation would have been taken the moment we advised of our intention to withdraw labour.”
The nurses said while the government would not want them to make reference to the parallel market rate, reality on the ground was that pricing for goods and services was pegged against parallel market rates, currently at over US$1:100.
“For every US$100.00, a person will get ZW$10,000.00. Using this measure, it means the majority of nurses are earning anything between US$30 – US$40. It is the rate we are faced with when we have to transact even in established supermarkets.
“To put this in perspective, if one is to walk into a supermarket today with ZW$1 ,000 (being one third of the majority of nurses salaries, one would only be able to buy 2 litres cooking oil, two kg of sugar, 2 litres of drink, 2 kg of rice and 2 loaves of bread.”
The nurses association said despite having to buy groceries, the health workers were also faced with other expenses including rent, school fees, medical fees and other essentials.
“For those who own cars, they cannot even fuel it up to full tank anymore because it now costs more than their salaries to do so.
“Therefore, the reality which any reasonable person will accept is that we are incapacitated from attending work, even if we wanted to,” the nurses said.
The nurses described their salaries as “slave wages” adding that under the circumstances, they were not different from the unemployed.
“Having discussed this with the association’s executive, we hereby call upon every nurse in Zimbabwe, from those working at a rural clinic in the most remote parts of the country, all the way up to those working at the central hospitals, to immediately do the following; “For those who have not been going to work, continue withholding your labour. To those who have been subsidising our employer by going to work, mostly because you may have an alternative source of income, we call upon you to reconsider this and withdraw your labour as well.”
While nurses in Zimbabwe were getting an average US$40 a month, in South Africa, the same are getting at least R17 000, which translates to more than US$1000.
In Zambia, the least paid nurse gets US$400.
“We have taken this opportunity to write to our constituency of nurses just so as to reinforce what we are all going through.
“Currently, the RBZ trading rate of the Zimbabwean Dollar to the United States Dollar is at $57.30. What this means is that for every US$100, a person would legally get ZW$5,730.00.”
“0ur survey has shown us that the majority of workers are not being paid ZW$5,730.00. What this means is that the ordinary nurse is earning far below US$100, even using the already rejected 50% increment offered by the government.”