GOVERNMENT will today meet its restive employees in a crunch meeting for salary negotiations in a desperate bid to stop a full-blown strike that could cripple State operations.
By Everson Mushava
This comes as workers have refused to back down after giving the statutory 14-day notice for industrial action to demand payment in hard currency.
Doctors at public hospitals and some teachers are already on strike and yesterday, the opposition MDC party announced that it would next week lead street protests against the deteriorating economic situation in the country, presenting the biggest challenge on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s stewardship of the southern African country.
Apex Council chair Cecilia Alexander in a letter to the National Joint Negotiating Council, a negotiating committee between government and its workers, said her team would sit in the meeting to discuss among other issues, government’s response to its workers’ demands.
Today’s meeting follows a similar one on Monday between Labour acting minister July Moyo and civil service workers unions to chart the way forward after teachers threatened to down tools demanding salaries in United States dollars to cushion them over the escalating cost of living.
Moyo is expected to reveal details of the government offer to its workers, but Alexander yesterday said the workers wanted to understand the offer by their employer, and would not rescind their notice to go on strike as a statement to government that it should meet their demands within that timeframe.
“We will attend the meeting to understand their (government) offer. This is where a decision will be made,” she said.
“The best thing they can do is to give us salaries in US$, as salary increases in bond notes will spike a wave of price increases and this will bring us back to square one and the issue becomes a vicious circle. What we are proposing is that they should simply convert our salaries to US dollars.”
She said they were not demanding much, but “we simply want to catch up with the economic situation”.
“Last year, we had a series of meetings and there was no solution and this time, we are in a worse situation. Today’s meeting will determine whether we are going to work or not. This will not affect our 14-day ultimatum. Right now, (government is) sending education inspectors around schools to check on teachers as if things are normal,” Alexander said.
A crippling shortage of US dollars, the currency Zimbabwe adopted when it ditched its own inflation-ravaged Zimdollar in 2009, is threatening social unrest and undermining Mnangagwa’s efforts to attract foreign investors to revive the faltering economy.
MDC youth assembly secretary Denford Ngadziore, who is also the councillor for ward 16 in Harare, said the country was ripe for another revolution because Mnangagwa’s administration had failed.
The protests are scheduled for next week when Mnangagwa will be out of the country, visiting five Asian and European countries.
Ngadziore said Mnangagwa’s “wretched earth” policies had killed national institutions and the country as a whole.
“The leadership vacuum at the helm of the country, coupled with the illegitimate and clueless Mnangagwa, has not helped the burning situation the country has found itself in. There is no government to talk of, that is where we come in,” he said.
“The people’s revolution is ripe and we call upon every citizen to join. We are all affected by the current economy situation, no one should be left behind. It is time for the citizens of the country to embark on non-routine rules and procedures to salvage the country that is on the brink of total
Doctors in public hospitals, who have been on strike for over 40 days, continued with their strike yesterday.
A few doctors, who had reported to work yesterday, re-joined their striking colleagues to protest government’s decision to subject them to disciplinary hearings.
“The employer’s position of holding hearings and victimising members who had opted to return to work has backfired. Doctors who had resumed work at Mpilo (Central) Hospital have re-joined the industrial action,” the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) tweeted on Tuesday.
According to the doctors at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo, they found the Health Services Board (HSB) and lawyers present at the hospital, with officials from the Health ministry as well as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in tow.
But the doctors snubbed the hearings and re-joined the strike, questioning their employer’s sincerity, who had earlier on in an agreement signed at the weekend said that the doctors would not be disciplined by the HSB, but would hold internal hearings with their bosses.
In a letter to the hospital announcing their return to strike, the doctors said they were not happy by the way they were handled upon return to work, which violated previously agreed positions.
“We will wait for formal communication from ZHDA for a communiqué to resume normal service. We have not been paid since mid-November and it is almost mid-January and we are incapacitated to continue reporting to work,” part of the letter, dated January 8, read.
However, in a statement, Health minister Obadiah Moyo yesterday claimed the doctors were being fed with misleading information and said although the outcome of the disciplinary action was unknown, the doctors would be given fair treatment in what he said was an “act of procedure”.
He said doctors could apply for advances on their salaries to get money to go to work, adding they still needed to subject themselves to the hearings.