Health workers down tools, demand USD salaries

Health workers in the country have downed tools with immediate effect, demanding that the government pays them salaries in foreign currency, a development that is most likely going to cripple the already struggling health care system.

The health workers associations wrote a letter to the Health Services Board Thursday, notifying them that they were incapacitated due to low remuneration.

“Further to our May 23, 2020 communication to the employer citing harsh macro-economic conditions characterised by hyperinflation, exchange rate volatility and a three-tier pricing system, the health apex position suggested a need for a cost of living adjustment in the second quarter of 2020. Sadly up to now no formal communication has been received from the employer by way of writing or convening of the HSBNP,” read the letter.

The health workers cited that the socio-economic situation continued to deteriorate with the inflation rate reaching 785 percent while their specific allowances backdated to January 1 were still unpaid.

“That back pay has been eroded by inflation to that end the health care workers ware economically incapacitated to continue reporting for duty until  the remuneration package is reviewed to their satisfaction,” said the health workers.

In an interview with CITE, Zimbabwe Nurses Association president, Enock Dongo confirmed the industrial action, saying this was the first of its kind where all the health workers were united in action.

“All health workers with immediate effect will stop going to work. This is an urgent matter and the government must look at the situation with the same urgency in order to address the plight of workers.

“If the government does not act, then we don’t what know what will happen because this action is what our members told us to do. This has never happened before when all health workers down tools at once,” he said.

In Bulawayo, nurses from  Mpilo Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Ingutsheni Hospital staged demonstrations saying they were fed up with low salaries which could not sustain them and their families.

Besides the ‘paltry’ pay, the nurses complained about the poor working conditions – noting they had no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) yet were exposed daily in the wards, dealing with patients – some who might have Covid-19.

Nurses stage a demonstration at Mpilo Hospital on Thursday

In the letter to the government, the health associations rejected the current offer of US$75 with “the contempt it deserves” and  demanded that salaries revert back to the October 1, 2018 digits that were quoted in USD, which is a stable salary that can store value of that salary.”

The associations include the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Zimbabwe Health Workers Union,  Zimbabwe Pharmacy Technicians Association, Zimbabwe Environment Health Practitioners Association, Zimbabwe Government Radiographers Association, Zimbabwe Medical Rehabilitation Technicians Association and the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association.

The other associations are Nurse Aides Association of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Hospital Food Services Supervisors Association, Zimbabwe Health Services Administrators Association, Zimbabwe Confederation of Midwives, Senior Hospital Doctors Association, Association of Medical Specialists in Training in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union. 

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