Zvamaida Murwira and Nesia Mhaka
Government remains open to dialogue with striking doctors to find a lasting solution, but those discussions should be carried out while health workers are at work, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said yesterday.
Crucially, Government will implement the 60 percent salary adjustment that was agreed with the medical practitioners during recent collective bargaining.
Further, Government was unequivocal that it was unable to pay health workers in United States dollars, nor in local currency at the interbank rate, but would implement the percentage-based increment agreed during the negotiations.
Dr Moyo said all provisions of the law will be pursued in an effort to locate permanent solutions to challenges bedevilling the health sector.
He said this yesterday while fielding questions from journalists during the 36th Cabinet decision matrix in Harare yesterday.
“I want to appeal to doctors that our doors are always open,” said Dr Moyo.
“We are open to dialogue until we get solutions, but let us dialogue while we are at work.”
On the 60 percent salary adjustment agreed during collective bargaining, Dr Moyo said: “That approval stands. Government is guided by the law. That is why we went to the courts. We are following what the law states and we shall follow the law. There is no way we will go against what the law says.”
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet noted that the strike by doctors disregarded efforts made by Government.
“The strike action disregards the significant efforts demonstrated by Government in its unwavering commitment to address their concerns,” she said.
“Such efforts include the recent upward review of their salaries and allowances, which should be in their accounts before the end of this month.
“The doctors, by continuing with the job action, are also in flagrant defiance of the court order which ruled their strike as illegal and ordered them to return to work forthwith. Doctors should value the sanctity of human life above all else and offer their critical services to patients.”
In an interview with The Herald last night, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said Government was keen to continue engaging the National Joint Negotiation Council (NJNC) to discuss civil servants’ welfare.
“A number of consultations with the Apex Council through the NJNC have to take place,” she said. “Once a figure has been agreed upon, we then seek Treasury concurrence.
“The price hikes continue to affect the purchasing power. I am hoping that the bonuses will help ease the burden of rising costs, especially of basic commodities.”
Minister Nzenza’s intervention followed a statement from the Apex Council yesterday that said “civil servants are severely incapacitated” and may struggle to report for work.
Apex said the 76 percent of cost of living adjustment (COLA) negotiated last month has been eroded by inflation.
Meanwhile, Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had also been briefed by Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo on progress made on the roll-out of the Expanded ZUPCO Mass Transit System.
The strategy by Government was meant to further cushion the commuting public, including civil servants, from the prevailing rising costs of public transport services.
“The expanded ZUPCO Mass Transit System incorporates commuter omnibuses and more significantly, will extend the ZUPCO bus service to rural areas,” she said. “The Minister (Cde Moyo) informed Cabinet that an assessment exercise undertaken by ZUPCO indicated that a total of 923 conventional buses are required to fully satisfy demand.
“The current deficit of 415 conventional buses will thus be covered by the 1 000 commuter omnibuses, which are now being incorporated under the ZUPCO Mass Transit System.”