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Zimbabwe: Nurse’s strike over slave wages continues

By Almot Maqolo

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Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) says its members are incapacitated from attending work as their salaries are so meagre as to amount to slave wages. Early this month, nurses, together with other health workers represented by the Health Apex Council withdrew their labour citing incapacity.

However, some health workers, including nurses, have continued to subsidize the government and have continued going to work. “Therefore, the reality which any reasonable person will accept is that we are incapacitated from attending work, even if we wanted to. The $3000 average salary we earned is not sufficient to cover for basic needs without even adding the cost required for a nurse to attend work,” said ZINA in a letter directed to its members.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe trading rate of Zimbabwean Dollar to the US dollar is at 57.30. So for every US$100, a person would legally get $5 730. From its survey, the association said majority of the workers are not being paid $5 730. On the ground, most pricing is made using parallel market rate of 100, which means for every US$100 a person will get $10 000. Using this measure, it means the majority of nurses are earning anything between US$30-40.

“The point we are trying to make above is that the salaries we are earning are so meagre as to amount to slave wages. If one is expected to attend to work and yet cannot buy the most basic of things, it is as good as not being employed.” ZINA said, “In response, government has decided to remain quite outside of an offer which was rejected the moment it was on the basis that it does not address the incapacity all health workers are currently facing”.

“Government’s lack of action and more importantly the refusal to engage the membership leadership on the ongoing job action suggest to us that it has still not accepted that its workers are incapacitated. Had it so accepted, urgent steps to address the situation would have been taken the moment we advised of our intention to withdrew labour.”

Nurses make up a great chunk of the health delivery system in Zimbabwe. The association said it cannot remain quite when its members have been literally turned into a ‘pauper’. “Having discussed this with the association executive, we hereby call upon every nurse in Zimbabwe, from those working at a rural clinic in the most remote parts of the country all the way up to those working at the central hospitals, to immediately do the following; for those who have not been going to work, continue withholding your labour,” reads part of the letter.

“To those who have been subsidizing our employer by going to work, mostly because you may have an alternative source of income, we call upon you to reconsider this and withdraw your labour as well.” ZINA added that: “We remain hopeful that government is going to consider just how incapacitated we are and engage us to address this issue.”


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