BY BRENNA MATENDERE
NURSES have confronted Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as Health minister over his decision to reverse their working hours.
Early this year nurses reached an agreement with the Health Services Board to work for two days a week in order to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and also because of poor remuneration. The agreement was reached as a compromise between the two parties after nurses had pressed for a minimum salary of US$1 000.
However, last week Chiwenga announced that the flexi working conditions had been suspended and advised the health workers to revert to the normal schedule of five days a week.
Enraged by the development, the nurses have since written to Chiwenga through his permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza rejecting the reversal of flexi working hours.
In the letter dated October 23, seen by NewsDay, the nurses protested over what they termed “militarisation of the health sector”. Chiwenga was a former military commander.
Part of the letter signed by the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU) president Robert Chiduku reads: “. . . Our attention has been drawn to your decision to unilaterally and abruptly suspend the flexible duties. The decision was implemented outside an official and legal collective bargaining agreement through the health service bipartite negotiating forum.
“We would like to register our displeasure and further condemn the dictatorial, militaristic and one-sided directive to forego relevant labour stakeholders like unions . . .” The nurses also pointed out that Chiwenga had resorted to use of command tactics in running the Health ministry.
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“We are also aware that you released another Letter of Command (LOC) in which you instructed hospital authorities to update your office on work attendance. Clearly, this is the genesis of militarisation of the health service and we are really disappointed by such schemes. This is daylight victimisation, “wrote the nurses.
The health workers threatened to resume the strike if their grievances were not addressed.
They insisted that they still wanted their salaries pegged at the equivalence of what they earned in 2017 in United States dollars before the country adopted the moribund bond note currency.
Both Chimedza and Health deputy minister John Mangwiro were yesterday unavailable for comment as their mobile phones were switched off.