Govt arm-twists striking nurses

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government intends to evict nurses from staff accommodation to force them to end their strike, which is entering its third week.

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

Nurses at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals yesterday staged a demonstration after receiving notices of eviction from government for “failure to attend work” as a result of the strike.

The healthcare workers said they were unmoved and vowed to continue with their strike until the employer awards them United States dollar salaries.

The government gave the nurses three-month notices to September 30, saying the hospital was experiencing numerous emergencies and that they had not been forthcoming despite staying in the hospital accommodation.

“This letter serves to notify you of the termination of your lease with effect from the end of day September 30, 2020. You are hereby given notice which will commence July 1, 2020.

“You are aware that your stay in hospital accommodation was on the understanding that you avail yourself in times of emergencies that may be occasioned by disasters, stayaway, industrial action and any other such disturbances,” Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals chief executive Ernest Manyawu wrote.

“The hospital has experienced numerous emergencies and industrial actions in the last 12 months. Despite the calls for emergency cover in those situations, you have not been forthcoming in spite of the fact that you are a resident in hospital accommodation.”

Nurses have been on strike for three weeks and last week, they disclosed that government had ignored several requests for dialogue on the way forward regarding the job action that has crippled the country’s health delivery system during the COVID-19 global pandemic where the nurses are frontline workers.

Government, in November last year, ignored a strike by doctors that lasted for 100 days, ending in January this year after the intervention of telecoms magnate Strive Masiyiwa.

Instead of attending to the doctors’ grievances, government became vindictive, firing some of the striking doctors as a way of forcing them back to work.

The possible eviction of the nurses has been viewed by the heath workers as another vindictive response from Mnangagwa’s government, but they vowed not to be cowed into submission.

Manyawu said the nurses were paying rent to the government of less than US$1,75 with no transport fares, free water and uninterrupted electricity supplies, but failed to attend to emergencies.

“The hospital will be entering into new lease agreements with those nurses who, due to the convenience and proximity of hospital accommodation, are agreeable to assisting patients during times of emergencies,” he wrote.

But the nurses were defiant, saying the government was treating them as slaves and was not sincere during the negotiations.

“We are failing to send children to school, even buying bread. We are not given food at work, but they keep on intimidating us,” Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) national executive member Samson Gurupira said.

“We regard ourselves as important and essential workers because we are the ones who deliver pregnant women on every birth and we are also the ones who close eyes when someone dies, so the government must respect us.

“We have a high risk of catching coronavirus, but the government is prioritising (Health Services Board) management by buying them vehicles worth more than US$400 000 each, yet there are no drugs in our hospitals.

“They cannot prioritise buying expensive vehicles at the expense of workers and patients. We want to be paid enough salaries.”

Gurupira said the government was taking advantage of women who were staying at their accommodation, saying it was using “intimidation tactics”.

He said the doctors had been on strike for more than four months, but they ignored them, while nurses have clocked two weeks on strike, yet they were now being evicted from government lodgings.
Parirenyatwa Hospital Zina chairperson Sithembinkosi Ngoni said they were now incapacitated since goods were being charged in US dollars.

“We received letters to vacate homes at around 7pm. That is why we are protesting. We do not have money to buy groceries or soap to bath, so we are only asking for a living wage, not the one we are getting which embarrasses us,” Ngoni said.

Meanwhile, Lancet Clinical Laboratory yesterday suspended the workers’ committee and other employees for engaging in protests over US dollar-pegged salaries on Thursday.

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