15 January 2013

Mozambique: Negotiations Over Doctors' Strike Under Way

Photo: The Star/ Monicah Mwangi
Medical workers (file photo).

Maputo — The Mozambique Medical Association (AMM) on Monday confirmed that it is negotiating a solution to the current doctors’ strike, now in its second week, with the Ministry of Health – but neither side has given any details about the current state of the negotiations.

At a Monday press conference, AMM spokesperson Paulo Samo Gudo described the relation between the Ministry and the Association as one between “father and son, who sometimes do not understand each other”.

Samo Gudo said that the AMM leadership had also met with Maputo doctors on Monday, “and the consensus was reached that the strike continues and the Association has the support of the doctors to continue negotiating with the government, and that’s what we are doing”.

“The negotiations will culminate in an agreement, and when this agreement is reached, we can return to normal activities”, he said.

Samo Gudo added “the negotiations are not taking place in a favourable manner. It is up to the government, which is responsible for providing health to the Mozambican people, to come up with solutions to solve this problem”.

But he believed that “both we, and the Ministry of Health, are seeing what is the best way to bring this matter to an end together, but it has to benefit the people and the doctors”.

He claimed that the strike was not just a matter for young, recently qualified doctors, but older specialists have now joined in. Samo Gudo added that the number of doctors committed to the strike in Maputo city and province had now reached 350. This is the number who attended the Monday meeting, but it is difficult to check whether all of them are effectively on strike.

As in labour disputes the world over, the organizers of the strike claim mass support (90 per cent, according to AMM chairperson Jorge Arroz), while the employer, the Health Ministry, says that only a minority are on strike.

The problem for the government is that it cannot deal with the issue of doctors’ wages in isolation from the rest of the public administration.

Sources in the Health Ministry have told AIM the government wants to include public sector wage scales in the annual tripartite negotiations between the government, the trade unions and the employers’ associations that usually take place in March-April.

This forum, known as the Consultative Labour Commission (CCT), normally has the adjustment of the statutory minimum wage at the top of the agenda. This year the discussions promise to be much more complex, if the government puts the entire public administration wage scale on the negotiating table.

This means that there can be no solution to the AMM’s wage grievances before April – and Ministry officials say the AMM has been told this.

Every day the strike continues, the strikers lose more money. Striking doctors will not be paid for the days they are absent, and the AMM has no strike fund to support the strikers.

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