The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) says the expulsion of the leader of the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU) over trade unionism disregards domestic and international labour laws.
ZPNU president, Robert Chiduku, was fired on August 15, 2022, from Gweru Provincial Hospital on allegations of conducting union business at his workplace without the employer’s consent.
Nurses alongside doctors often embark on industrial action motivated by poor working conditions, low remuneration and shortages of essential medical equipment, a situation that forces public hospitals to function with low staff or turn away patients.
Reacting to Chiduku’s dismissal, ARTUZ expressed outrage over that action, describing his firing as callous.
“The callous targeting and firing of Nurses Union leader in blatant disregard of domestic and international labour statutes said the rural teacher’s organisation, whose leader Obert Masaraure was also arrested last month over trumped-up charges of murdering his colleague in 2016 and spent over two weeks in remand prison.
ARTUZ noted that Zimbabwe was a signatory to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and protection of freedoms to organise and engage in collective bargaining.
“Section 65 of Zimbabwe’s constitution guarantees and protects the right of workers to self-organise and protect in defence of their interest. The government of Zimbabwe has clearly adopted an anti-worker position in total disregard of the social contract with the citizens of Zimbabwe,” said the rural teachers’ organisation.
As a call to action, ARTUZ said it believed in labour justice and in the principle of solidarity.
“We, therefore, make this call, in support of our comrades who are targeted as we are targeted. Trade Unions, workers’ bodies, organisations and citizens who believe in labour justice freedom and democracy to openly condemn the firing of Chiduku and demand his reinstatement,” ARTUZ said, adding they also “call on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the constitution.”
The rural teacher’s organisation added it would also give moral and material support to the Nurses union, including a legal challenge of Chiduku’s unfair dismissal.
Chiduku is one of the many nurses and union leaders who were summoned by the Ministry of Health and Childcare for disciplinary hearings over their industrial action for better salaries for nurses.
There are also fears that over 200 nurses working at government health institutions may also lose their jobs as they are to appear before disciplinary committees at provincial government hospitals across the country for participating in demonstrations and absenteeism from duty without authorisation.
Zimbabwe Nurses Union (ZINA) president Enock Dongo stated these hearings were done to intimidate workers and prevent them from engaging in any job action.
Chiduku’s dismissal also comes as medical practitioners are strongly against the proposed amendments to the Health Services Act that seeks to outlaw strikes and impose jail time for those who lead any industrial actions.
The proposed Health Services Amendment Bill, HB8, 2021 seeks to align the current Health Service Act of 2015 to the 2013 Constitution.