15 January 2013

Mozambique: Doctors' Strike Ends

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

Maputo — The Ministry of Health and the Mozambican Medical Association (AMM) on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding bringing to an end a strike by doctors that had lasted for nine days.

Under the agreement the AMM accepted that doctors’ wages will only increase in the context of a more general public sector wage settlement that will take effect in April.

Sources in the Ministry have told AIM that the AMM was informed, even before the strike began, that there could be no changes in doctors’ wages before April. Annual discussions in the Labour Consultative Commission (CCT), the tripartite negotiating body between the government, the trade unions and the employers’ associations, are generally held in March and April.

It seems that this year, rather than simply determining the new statutory minimum wages, the government wants to place a new public sector wage scale before the CCT.

Under the Tuesday agreement, the Ministry will send a circular to all public sector health units giving instructions that no administrative measures are to be taken against those doctors and student doctors who did not present themselves for work during the strike. This removes the possibility, mentioned last week, that disciplinary action might be taken against striking doctors under the General Statute of State Functionaries which governs labour relations in the public administration (including the national health service).

The Memorandum recognises that the specific nature of medical activity justifies the establishment of a “Statute of Doctors”, with its own wage table, “taking into account the principle of equity”.

The Ministry and the AMM also agreed to set up “mechanisms for permanent dialogue”, which will draw up a matrix of subsequent work, with actions to be undertaken and deadlines for them. This includes the various ministerial decrees and diplomas that will be needed to regulate the Statute of Doctors, notably new regulations on the career structure for doctors.

At the signing of the Memorandum, AMM Chairperson Jorge Arroz said the conditions had been established “to guarantee social justice for doctors”, as from April.

The AMM accepted that most of the demands they had raised in earlier negotiations with the Ministry (or example, over doctors’ housing) had already been met, and the only outstanding issue was that of wages.

Health Minister Alexandre Manguele told the ceremony that the AMM “understands the efforts the government is making”, and as from now all doctors, in hospitals and other health units throughout the country, should report for normal work duties.

Am AMM message on the Association’s Facebook page announced the end of the strike “with immediate effect”. The AMM warned that it reserves the right “to take subsequent steps in the event that the points of the agreement are not fully implemented”.

Right to the end of the dispute, there were contradictory versions as to how many of the 1,274 doctors in the national health service were on strike. The Ministry downplayed the impact of the strike, claiming that 20 per cent or less of doctors had not turned up for work, while Arroz insisted that 90 per cent of AMM members were on strike.

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