The Zimbabwean government has suspended 500 striking doctors who are demanding payment of salaries in United States dollars, improved working conditions, revitalization of a state-sanctioned vehicle loan scheme and other issues.
The Health Service Board (HSB), which wrote suspension letters to all striking doctors, indicated that the 24-day industrial action was illegal as determined by the Labor Court on Saturday.
A letter written to one of the doctors read in part, “… This letter serves to advise you that, in terms of Section 6 (1) of the Labour (National Employment Code of Conduct) Regulations Statutory Instrument 15 of 2006 (the code) you are hereby suspended from duty for a period of 14 days from the date on which this notice is served on you.
“The Board has reason that you committed an act of misconduct or acts of misconducts as defined by Section 4 in that contrary to Section 4 (a) you were absent from your contract …”
The HSB further said, “This suspension is premised on the fact that you did not report for duty from 01 December 2018 to 22 December 2018 and, additionally on other dates subsequent thereto whilst participating in collective job action which has since been declared upon by the Labour Court to be unlawful …”
The HSB said the suspended doctors are not supposed to report for duty. “… Your suspension is without pay and benefits, and while you are on suspension you are prohibited from continued attendance at the work place or the continued performance of your duties as the case may be as this may be conducive to unbecoming or indecorous behavior or may lead to further instances of collective job action or other acts of misconduct, or hinder or interfere with investigations into your misconduct …”
But doctors dismissed this move as immaterial, saying the government has failed to address their needs.
Dr. Mthabisi Bhebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, said, “We have involved our lawyers in this matter and will await their (HSB) response. Doctors are willing to go back to work and negotiations are still open.
“We are confident that the government will take this matter seriously and negotiate through the normal channels so that a lasting solution may be found and patients get the necessary attention.”
The same doctors went on strike sometime this year and made the same demands.