Nurses suspend strike amid talks

HARARE - Nurses have called off demonstrations as union leaders and government open talks over bitterly-disputed contracts.

This comes as the dispute between government and nurses — newly engaged and those with up to 10 years of experience — has escalated in the past days.

Last week, nurses walked off the job for a day in protest of government refusal to review their salaries and the grading system that places all nurses, regardless of seniority or qualifications, under the lowest grade.

The nurses also want the current Health Services Board (HSB) secretariat to be removed as they claim it was oblivious of the operations of health workers after it failed to improve their conditions of service.

“We have given them until next week to respond to the issues we raised. If they fail to respond, we will continue with the demonstrations next week,” Zimbabwe Nurses Association secretary general Enock Dongo said.

HSB chairperson Lovemore Mbengeramwa told the Daily News that they had already responded by setting up a team to review the grading system for the nurses.

“We responded to the issues they raised and the nurses are part of the team that are investigating or verifying the grading system. The team has been given up to June the 10th to come up with a report, so the exercise would be complete by the 10th,” Mbengeranwa said.

“And concerning the secretariat they were complaining about, we have a grievance procedure, there are procedures that should be taken.”

The nurses said the HSB secretariat was incompetent and in 11 years has failed to improve conditions of service as well as implement issues agreed upon.

The nurses are earning around $285 a month, according to Dongo.

Nurses demonstrated against the secretariat last week as they denounced the HSB human resources manager Norah Zhou.

“Even when you have been working as a nurse for 10 years, you get the lowest salary of about $285, when you are considered to be senior. It’s because your grade doesn’t change, they remain grade D1 instead of D3,” Dongo told the Daily News.

“We feel the HSB does not understand us and how we operate. We have been raising this issue since 2010 and up to now  they have not yet addressed those issues. The purpose was to dress the conditions of service for health workers but it is not happening.  We are now under other civil servants,” Dongo said.

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