HARARE - The government offered doctors a revised deal on their pay demands on Saturday, but unions said they would consider if the proposals are enough to avert a national strike planned for today.
Unions representing more than 400 State doctors have been locked in a dispute with the government over demands to raise their salaries amid austerity measures being implemented by government to tackle a budget deficit.
Officials from the Health Services Board and the Health and Child Care ministry met union leaders on Saturday before announcing the offer.
It was not immediately clear what the offer included but the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) wanted government to increase their basic salary from $282 to $1 200 and slash government accommodation rentals from $250 to $37 for bachelor’s flats and $45 for one bed-roomed flats.
Fortune Nyamande, the ZHDA president, said: “They sought a formal meeting with our executive and therefore yesterday (Saturday) we met with the Health Services Board and a representative from the ministry.
“There were areas where we strongly differed and others where we were making headway but we have hope that we can resolve the issues amicably.”
ZHDA handed a 14-day ultimatum to the ministry of Health and Child Care two weeks ago, demanding a review of salaries and allowances.
Nyamande said ZHDA members at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Harare Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), Chitungwiza Central Hospital and Mpilo Central Hospital are reconvening today to discuss offers from the meeting.
The union said they would study the proposal pending further talks but the doctors wanted a deal that was enough to give workers confidence they would have decent pay.
“We will weigh what is on the table through our chapters this Monday (today),” Nyamande said.
“If they are happy, then we go ahead with sealing the process but if not, we cannot stop them from downing their tools.
“If any party backtracks, there is high likelihood the country will fall into a crisis”.
Over and above the pay review, the doctors also want at least 1.45 x hourly rate on-call allowance and the reinstatement of the duty-free facility which allows the doctors to import vehicles without paying duty.
The demands are coming at a time government is struggling to meet the wage bill for civil servants.
But Nyamande argues their conditions of service are among the worst in the sub region.
“We only have about 300 to 400 doctors serving the whole public sector,” he said.
“It means annually, government needs about $4,8 million to pay the professionals attending to the whole country. If we go regional, doctors are not earning anything less than $2 500.”