Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter—
The Health Services Board (HSB) has acknowledged erroneously placing health workers in wrong grades since 2010, a situation that is now costing Government over US$5 million in backdated salary dues, The Herald has learnt. A document in The Herald’s possession with the corrected grades shows that nurses were the most affected, being owed $55 508 for each month since 2010, a figure that translates to $666 096 a year in unpaid dues.
The error has also seen 19 other disciplines within the health sector ranging from audit and accounting, records and information, pharmacy and doctors also being affected. In total, Government owes these cadres US$5 088 703 since 2010, in salary backdate.
Information gathered by The Herald showed that sometime in 2010, HSB failed to present assimilation tables to the Salaries Services Bureau (SSB) showing employees’ progression paths as they advance to higher levels of education resulting in some senior nurses earning less than their juniors. Sources said the employees, particularly nurses were lumped up in grade D1, which is the entry grade to civil service even for people with diplomas.
The affected employees remained in those lower grades to date, even at a time when their counterparts from the rest of the civil service where upgraded in line with their new educational attainments. HSB is the employer of all Government health workers after its creation through an Act of Parliament in 2005, to address among other things specific conditions of service for the health sector.
HSB executive director Ms Ruth Kaseke said the Board has since engaged with worker representatives through collective bargaining where rectification of the errors was deliberated on. Ms Kaseke said the Board has since submitted the corrected grading for the employees to Treasury for availing of funds.
“That issue was discussed at collective bargaining and an agreed position on rectification of the errors was reached. We have since made submissions to Treasury for allocation of resources towards paying the affected professionals their backdated salaries,” said Ms Kaseke.
Asked if the errors had affected the health sector only, Ms Kaseke said she would not know since they were only reflecting on the health sector. Sometime in May this year, health workers demonstrated at the HSB offices housed at Parirenyatwa hospital demanding dissolution of the board citing incompetence.
In their petition presented to the board during the demonstration, the workers argued that senior nurses such as nurse managers and nurse educators were earning less than general hand workers because of the wrong grades.
“Health workers would like to express their disgruntlement over the inefficiencies displayed by the HSB since inception. This is revealed by their non-compliance to implement policy issues and agreed positions reached at collective bargaining foras,” reads part of the petition signed by the health worker’s Apex Council.
“It is pathetic for such senior personnel to be rewarded way below a sweeper who works in X-ray department. All other cadres in the system earn more that the nurse managers and tutors,” further reads the petition. The workers said they raised this anomaly in 2015 and proposed a starting allowance of $200 for sisters-in-charge, but nothing was done.
“We were told that Treasury was delaying the process only to realise that treasury was not even in the picture of such a request.” This is not the first time that the HSB has erred in administering salaries and incentives for its employees. Sometime in 2015, the board effected night duty allowances of $25 to nurses instead of the agreed $50.
The night duty allowance had been increased from $3. The error was, however, rectified after intervention by worker representatives.