Zimbabwe’s striking doctors today said they are ready to return to work any time provided that their employer finds common ground with them and comes to the negotiating table with an acceptable offer and provides something to cushion them in this current economic environment.
The doctors who have been on strike since 1 December said: “There is nothing that is beyond negotiation and we want to believe the impasse can end with these few measures any day for the sake of our patients at large. Further discussions to correct any other problems can be done after the situation has normalised.”
The doctors said the strike was not just by junior doctors. It was indeed started by junior doctors but their senior colleagues joined them three weeks ago.
They also said denied that the government had resolved all their grievances except two.
The pending grievances included the supply of medicines, which they said was the most important grievance, payment of salaries in United States dollars and car loans.
“The employer must provide basic medications and sundries to all government hospitals as this has been having an extensive negative impact on the welfare patients,” they said.
“The working environment has become increasingly hazardous to work in due to the absence of vital personal protective equipment and thus making it increasingly difficult for doctors to continue improvising.
“In the spirit of negotiation and long term planning, the doctors are requesting for evaluable timelines and targets for the provision of subsequent batches of medication so that a sense of security is given to the medical field at large. This is merely in the form of a written document from our employer.
“Government responded that it had secured 2.2 million worth of drugs at Nat pharm and is in the process of distributing them. The government is however reluctant to provide the long time line and targets as a sign of long term commitment to the promise.
“Doctors have asked for this provision for the past four weeks to no avail. This has been the deadlock in the negotiation of this grievance. “
On payment of salaries in US dollars, the doctors said the employer agreed through signed legally binding agreements in March 2018 to pay the doctors in United States dollars.
“Doctors are therefore asking the employer to honour the agreement,” they said. “The need comes as a result of the harsh economic situation which has seen the RTGS salaries being devalued by nearly 4 times on the market whether officially or unofficially.”
The doctors said while the government argued that it was not able to pay its workers in foreign currency and was not able to adjust their salaries and allowances at the moment, they understood quite well that the government may not be in a position to provide for the grievance in full as this may be too much to ask.
But they said the government must bring an offer to the table that showed genuine concern on their part to address the plight of its workers.