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Zimbabwe Doctors' Strike Continues As Teachers Promise Fireworks on Day One of 2019 School Year

FILE: Marambire Sinaravo Jongwe, vice president of Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association on January 7, 2019 said his members would not go to work until the government pays them in US dollars, equip hospitals with modern technology, sufficient medicine and protective clothing.

Zimbabwean doctors resolved Monday to continue with a crippling strike following talks with government on ending the 38-day industrial action.

In a statement, the 500 doctors said the government has failed to meet their grievances following a collective bargain agreement between state officials and health workers Saturday that gave the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) a mandate to engage its members so they can return to work within 48 hours.

“The ZHDA carried widespread consultations of its members as per agreement. The ZHDA members nationwide however felt that the agreement did not take cognizance of their immediate incapacitation in a raging economy as no current offer was made on the remuneration of doctors to improve their welfare.

“Additionally, there were no timelines and evaluable targets for the provision of drugs and protective equipment to government hospitals. The ZHDA had for the past three months indicated to its employer the paramount need to address these matters.”

The doctors added that they have no money for transport and fuel.

“The ZHDA members have therefore remained incapacitated and will not be able to resume normal duty till these matters have been addressed by their employer. It is important to note that the few available ZHDA members who showed up for duty in various hospitals have done so as a sign of good faith and remain in solidarity to those at home. It is our hope that the situation will be resolved with the urgency it deserves.”

Officials in the ministries of health and finance and the Health Service Board were not available for comment.

The doctors are demanding payment in United States dollars, constant medical and drug supplies, revival of a state-sanctioned vehicle loan scheme and several other issues. The government has already indicated that it does not have foreign currency to pay doctors’ salaries.

In a related development, Zimbabwean teachers affiliated to the Zimbabwe Teachers Union and Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe say they won’t report for duty on Tuesday, the first day of the 2019 school year, due to the devaluation of their salaries following the near-collapse of the bond notes.

At the same time, teachers affiliated to the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe have resolved that its members would perform school duties twice a week as a result of degraded salaries, which are now almost $60 per month. They are paid in Real Gross Time Settlement and bond notes.

In a statement, PTUZ said the organization held a crucial meeting to discuss the way forward on Tuesday with staff associations representing civil servants in Harare in which the government was represented by the ministries of primary and secondary education and finance and officials from the Public Service Commission and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

“We presented our demands to the government, which include the payment of our salaries in USD, adjustment of our salaries to reflect the new economic realities. We have also not minced our words on the mutilated bonus that we demand should be paid in full. Instead of addressing our concerns, the government offered nothing except a new meeting in the near future in order to discuss the adjustment. The government’s tired story that it cannot pay in USD, and that it is implementing austerity for posterity does nothing to assuage our most urgent concerns of incapacitation. We have subsidized the government for too long, and this is the time to say thus far and no more.”

PTUZ noted that civil servants’ unions held a meeting to map the way forward.

“Together with other unions, straight after the meeting with government, we resolved to submit the statutory 14-day notice to go on collective job action. The notice will be submitted tomorrow, the 8th of January 2019. Meantime, our members will check in at work tomorrow, but from then they will be working for only two days a week.

“In the event that the government does not award a realistic and time-conscious salary raise on expiry of the 14-days from tomorrow, all the 16 government workers associations/unions resolved to declare a full-blown strike.”

Zimbabwe is facing an economic crisis following disputed elections held last July and won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF party.

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