Friday 18 January 2019

Zimbabwe sacks 16,000 nurses after they went on strike

Zimbabwe’s vice-president Constatino Chiwenga. Photo: Reuters
Zimbabwe’s vice-president Constatino Chiwenga. Photo: Reuters

MacDonald Ozirutwe

Zimbabwe said it had sacked 16,000 striking nurses as the new government seeks to keep a lid on labour unrest in the build-up to the first elections since the fall of Robert Mugabe.

The nurses walked out on Monday over unpaid allowances and other issues, leaving hospitals understaffed.

The action came days after junior doctors wrapped up a month-long walkout over pay and working conditions.

Vice-president Constantino Chiwenga accused the nurses of staging a "politically motivated" strike and said they would be replaced by retired and unemployed staff. The nurses' union told its members to stay calm as it mulled its response.

The Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) said it had given its employer, the Health Services Board, until yesterday to reverse the mass dismissal or face legal action.

Mr Chiwenga, the retired army general who led a de facto military coup against Mr Mugabe in November, said ZINA had rejected a $17m (€13.7m) offer to clear wage arrears.

Zina said it was open to talks with the government but added that its grievances had not yet been resolved.

"The government now regards this lack of remorse as politically motivated, and thus going beyond concerns of conditions of services and worker welfare," said Chiwenga.

The Zimbabwe Teachers' Union, which itself has threatened to go on strike next month over poor pay, said the government should rescind its "inhuman and unilateral decision."

A doctors and lawyers union said the government decision was illegal.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mr Mugabe in November, will stand in elections set for July against a revitalised opposition Movement for Democratic Change party led by 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa.

Mr Mnangagwa promised to revitalise the southern African country's economy after decades of severe mismanagement.

Cash shortages mean banks are forced to limit withdrawals, unemployment remains above 80pc and the government still struggles to pay workers on time.

Irish Independent

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