Zimbabwean doctors are vowing to continue their 51-day strike despite a 100 percent raise in allowances offered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The doctors say the offer resulted in an increase of their on-call allowances from 1,200 Zimbabwe dollars to 2,400 Zimbabwe dollars each per month, an amount they say is insignificant, taking into account the high cost of living in the country.
According to Dr. Tawanda Zvakada, acting secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, an umbrella body of the striking doctors, they want the government to increase their salaries and on-call allowances using the current intermarket bank rates of one United States dollar to 14 RTGS Zimbabwe dollars.
“Our salaries have been eroded by 1,500 percent and the government went on to give us a 100 percent on our allowances, for us (it) is the on-call allowance, which we have been demanding for it to be pegged at the prevailing interbank rate. So, what they have since done is to double it from the current 1,200 RTGS to 2,400 RTGS whereas we wanted it to be multiplied by 15, they have multiplied it by two. So, this brings a total package of less than 180 United States dollars per month.
“We are not accepting this offer. It seems today is our day number 51 since doctors declared incapacitation nationwide. So, we are going to be incapacitated like before until the government comes to its senses and comes with a meaningful offer that’s when we can start negotiations.”
He says if the doctors were paid using the bank rates, the government would have increased their on-call allowances to 16,800 RTGS Zimbabwe dollars instead of 2,400 RTGS Zimbabwe dollars per month.
“Our demands remain the same. We want a long-lasting solution to this perennial industrial action. An offer that we consider meaningful is to have our on-call allowance being reviewed at the current interbank rate for that month. So this will take the figures, say today’s interbank rate is at 14, we would have our on-call allowance at 16,800 RTGS from the current 2,400. We expect it to be 16,800 RTGS. We have a huge gap here that needs to be subsidized.”
Dr. Zvakada says the doctors won’t go back to work until they receive decent salaries and on-call allowances.
“We don’t know how it’s going to end, to be honest we don’t draw any pleasure from it going on to 100 days or to infinity or whatsoever. But what we have right now is that doctors are incapacitated and remain incapacitated until government comes with a meaningful offer. So, as it stands we don’t know how it’s going to end but what we know right now is that we are in a stalemate position.”
He says indications are that a large number of patients are not receiving primary medical care in state hospitals due to the doctors’ strike.
“We as doctors we don’t draw any pleasure from that. For all you may know all those patients are one of us, they are our relatives but is so unfortunate that the government has put us in such a corner and this is wholly to blame on the government for its negligence on the health sector … We remain open for meaningful and serious negotiations. So, it’s up to the government and for us the ZHDA we remain open for dialogue.”
The junior doctors downed their tools September 3 and were joined two weeks ago by middle and senior doctors working in state hospitals.
But Dr. Paulinus Sikosana of the Health Service Board, which employs doctors, says the doctors have been boycotting talks on negotiating for better allowances.
“The last thing that was negotiated for was at the bipartite which the doctors did not attend, they withdrew … The previous bipartite the doctors had agreed collective bargainer agreement the health workers had agreed on the 60 percent review of the specific health allowances, not the basic salary. That was what was being reviewed and they had accepted it on condition that there would be another review of the same in the last quarter of the year.
“So, the last bipartite was to fulfill that conditionality in the previous collective bargaining agreement to further review the special allowances. They were reviewed for a further 60 percent, which in total makes it a 100 percent review.”