Health workers, teachers strike in Zimbabwe

A 100 billion Zimbabwean dollar note is seen in a box of apples in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

Photo credit: File

Zimbabwe’s health workers and teachers on Monday went on strike over poor working conditions as they rejected a 100 percent salary increase offered by the government at the weekend.

Health workers such as nurses, junior doctors and radiographers staged protests at the country’s biggest public hospital – Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in the capital Harare – as they began their indefinite strike.

Unions representing health workers said the strike was a last resort after the government refused to negotiate with them since April last year.

“The minister of Health and Child Care (Vice President Constantino Chiwenga) has never met any health employee and government continues to offer lies as opposed to what is prevailing on the ground,” Apex Health Council leader Tapiwanashe Kusotera told the protesting health workers.

“They have refused to listen to us and we refuse to work.”

The strike is the second walkout by health workers since the Covid-19 outbreak began in Zimbabwe in 2020.

Civil servants have been pushing for a salary review citing galloping inflation, which jumped to 131. 7 percent in May.

The government workers want their salaries to be pegged in United States dollar as the Zimbabwe dollar has become very unstable.

Health workers in Zimbabwe such as nurses earn an average of $79.37 a month compared to the $500 they were earning before the reintroduction of the local currency in 2019.

Four major unions representing teachers declared on Monday that their members would not report for work for five days to protest against the poor working conditions.

“It is clear from the outcome of the National Joint Negotiating Council held on June 17 that the government is not serious about the welfare of civil servants,” the unions said.

“We cannot continue to be an embarrassment in our community as a result of the poverty that the government believes should remain as part of our working lives.”

The unions said their members “will not report for work starting June 20 to June 24.”

Prior to the weekend salary review, the government had last raised civil servants’ salaries in February this year.

The Zimbabwe dollar has since then lost 70 percent of its value against the US dollar and the surge in inflation has stocked fears of a return to the hyperinflation era of 2008 where the country was forced to abandon its currency.

Civil servants say they are unable to fend for their families or send children to school in the face of the rapid increase in the prices of goods and services.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government blames the latest economic crisis engulfing the southern African country on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has seen a steep rise in prices of fuel, maize and wheat.

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