Zimbabwe’s Labor Court has ruled that a nationwide devastating doctors’ strike is illegal and ordered them to return to work within the next 48 hours.
In a ruling delivered Friday, Justices Lawrence Murasi and Rodgers Manyangaidze said the Health Service Board should take unspecified disciplinary action if the doctors fail to return to work.
But the doctors say they will defy the order, noting that the government needs to increase their salaries and improve working conditions at state-run hospitals.
In its ruling the Labor Court said, “The collective job action engaged by members of respondent (Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association) on September 3 2019 be and is hereby declared unlawful. The said collective job action be and is hereby ordered to be terminated forthwith …
The court ordered the doctors to immediately return to work. “Members of respondent who participated in the said collective job action be and are hereby ordered to return to duty within forty-eight (48) hours from the date of this order and the applicant (Health Service Board) shall be entitled to take disciplinary action against members of respondent who fail or neglect to comply with this order.”
The Labor Court also ruled that the Health Service Board shall not take any disciplinary action against doctors who participated in the collective job action from September 3 to the date of the court ruling.
The court referred the labor dispute to an arbitrator who has to map out some discussion terms and modalities of handling the case between the Health Service Board and the doctors.
However, the doctors dismissed the court ruling, vowing to continue with their industrial action until their grievances are met.
Dr. Masimba Ndoro, spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, told VOA Zimbabwe Service they are not going back to work.
“Doctors remain incapacitated despite the court ruling which has suggested otherwise. This has not solved the impasse and we urge the employer to come with solid solutions to address this impasse as quickly as possible.”
There was no comment from the Health Service Board as its chairperson, Dr. Paulinus Sikosana, and Health Minister Dr. Obadiah Moyo, was they were unreachable on their mobile phones.
The doctors want the government to increase their salaries using intermarket bank rates and improve conditions of service, including the purchasing of drugs and essential equipment in state-run hospitals, which are currently almost deserted due to the strike.