Nurses strike: Govt must give dialogue a chance

HARARE - The firing of striking nurses on the eve of the country’s 38th independence anniversary does not bode well for the country’s potential to dialogue with its broader and disgruntled employees’ body.

On Tuesday night, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga issued a statement announcing the dismissal of all striking nurses, shocking Zimbabweans who thought the ongoing dialogue would produce an amicable solution to the impasse that has led to continued suffering in the panting health services sector.

Although the vice president said government had made significant progress in getting the nurses grievances addressed after instructing Treasury to release $17 114 446 into the account of the ministry of Health and Child Care for on-payment to the striking nurses, the nurses — who have had to endure poor working conditions over the years — must have been sceptical of their employer’s commitment.

Government said the nurses’ strike was politically-motivated and had nothing to do with conditions of service and worker welfare. This is very surprising given that Health minister David Parirenyatwa had acknowledged the nurses’ grievances as genuine and valid.

Besides, the nurses had for long petitioned their employer with the same grievances with under-fire minister possibly not taking them seriously.

The nurses’ grievances were not limited to monetary benefits as reflected in a Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) statement earlier on Tuesday; “Among some of our issues are the insufficiency of medical, surgical, human resources and equipment at health facilities.

“We are also demanding a rationalisation in the discrepancies in allocation of allowances, rectification in the implementation of outstanding issues to do with advancement, re-grading, promotion procedures for nurses and failure by government to progressively engage with us following a position paper presented to it on April 4, this year.”

Zina president Simangaliso Mafa added in the statement; “As of now, we are still engaging government. But as I speak there is nothing that has been committed on paper. We met with the government on Sunday and we are meeting again today to see if we can come to a mutual agreement.”

What is apparent in this statement is that the nurses had little, if any, trust in their employer and would have preferred to have the commitments by government put in black and white.

This is not the first time that government has responded in the same manner when faced with a striking workforce.

Firing the nurses does not in any way help the suffering patients but may have worsened the situation. The stop-gap measure announced by government — hiring trained unemployed and retired nurses in the interim may not produce immediate results as it could be a lengthy process.

In 2002, government ordered the dismissal of hundreds of teachers for taking part in a wage strike with teachers’ unions arguing that it was their members constitutional right to engage in a peaceful strike, and that the Robert Mugabe regime that was in charge then should make concerted efforts to address the grievances of the teachers.

Teachers had gone on strike in October of that year, demanding a 100 percent salary increment and another 100 percent cost of living adjustment.

It appears this is a replay of the same scenario.

Firing employees and replacing them with jobless but trained counterparts as well as those in retirement does not solve the obtaining problems, especially those involving medical, surgical, human resources and equipment at health facilities.

Hiring unemployed trained and retired nurses will not solve the monetary grievances the health workers also raised.

If anything, it reflects badly on the clueless government’s resort to ancient intimidatory tactics that do not seem to consider dialogue.

It is even worse with the case of the Zimbabwean government workers, who has had to endure poor salaries and working conditions through the Mugabe era into the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

What seems to have kept civil servants quiet is an understanding of the challenges affecting the country, something Chiwenga now claims they do not seem to understand.

It will no doubt instil fear in other aggrieved government workers, especially the teachers, who were also mulling strike action at the start of the second term.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has already called for a general strike on a date to be advised.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.