Zimbabwe: Doctors Threatened Over Strike

Striking doctors (file photo).

Suspected state security agents have allegedly been sending threatening messages to leaders of unions representing doctors in a bid to force the medical professionals to drop plans to go on strike on Tuesday .

Government doctors last week gave notice that they would down tools after they rejected a 60% salary increase offer.

Some doctors said they had been threatened with death, but vowed that the industrial action was going ahead as planned.

"They are threatening to kill us and we have been called several times to accept the offer they are extending to us as a salary increment although it is actually, a meagre stipend," said one of the doctors who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Health minister Obadiah Moyo yesterday referred questions about the alleged threats to the Health Services Board (HSB) chair Paulinus Sikhosana, who was not available for comment.

On Friday, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors' Association acting president Peter Mugombeyi formally notified heads of government hospitals of the impending strike.

"This letter serves as a notice that starting from September 3 this year, doctors at Mpilo, Bulawayo United, Parirenyatwa Group, Harare and Chitungwiza central hospitals are not going to report for work. We simply do not have the means to continue coming to work because the salary is not sufficient," Mugombeyi wrote in a fresh notice to clinical directors and heads of departments from the various hospitals.

He said the HSB's unwillingness to engage had left them without any choice.

"Attempts to engage the employer have proved to be futile. Letters have been submitted and meetings have been attended through the bipartite negotiating panel to register the concerns," read part of the letter.

"No satisfactory agreement has been reached so far to insulate the doctors from the current high cost of living.

"To this end, it is within this reason that on the date stated above we will not report for duty until the salaries are adjusted to an interbank rate that is based on the market forces of the day."

Doctors last year embarked on an over-a-month-long industrial action, which they eventually abandoned after government made promises to improve their working conditions. Threats and blackmail were also employed to force the doctors to go back to work.

The government last week gave civil servants that fall under the Apex Council a 75% pay increase despite demand for a 400% review. Teachers accused leaders of the Apex Council of selling out.

Unions such as the Zimbabwe Teachers' Union and Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) have rejected the salary offer.

The Apex Council, however, claimed that it signed the agreement after reaching an agreement with its members that included the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association (Zimta).

But Zimta secretary-general Sifiso Ndlovu dismissed the claims saying they had asked negotiators from the Apex Council to report back to them before signing so that they could consult their members about the government's offer.

PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou said the Apex Council was being used by government to deny workers a living wage.

The least paid government worker now earns about $1 000 against their earlier demand of $4 750.

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