The Sunday News
DOCTORS in the country’s public hospitals have been embarking on an illegal industrial action for over a month.
The doctors have been coming up with all sorts of reasons why they cannot go back to work, ranging from the purported abduction of their union’s leader, which however, turned out to be a farce and stage-managed. They also demanded a review of their remuneration and working conditions, something which the Government has been doing. And last week, the Government brokered a deal with the doctors by offering them a 60 percent increase in allowances which would see them earning between $8 000 and $11 000.
The doctors rejected the offer, but they have since been ordered by the Labour Court to go back to work as their strike was illegal. And the nation expects them to respect the decision of the court and report to their workstations as directed.
On Friday, the Labour Court declared the 40-day long industrial action by doctors unlawful and ordered them to return to work within 48 hours. The court ruling came after the Health Services Board had taken the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association to the Labour Court to show cause why the collective job action should not be terminated.
Justice Rogers Manyangadze, sitting with Justice Lawrence Murasi, declared the strike unlawful and ordered the job action to be terminated forthwith. No disciplinary action will be taken against the doctors. However, those that fail to comply with the court order will face Government sanctions.
“Members of the respondent who participated in the said collective job action be and are hereby ordered to report for duty within 48 hours from the date of this order and the applicant shall be entitled to take disciplinary action against members of the respondent who fail or neglect to comply with this order. Applicant shall not take any disciplinary action against members of the respondent who participated in the collective job action from 3 September 2019 up to the date of this order,” read part of the ruling.
The court also resolved that the dispute between the feuding parties be referred for arbitration in terms of the Arbitration Act (Chapter 7:15). In this regard, the court directed that the arbitration be held within 14 days from the date of the order and parties should agree to the requisite terms of reference.
It was the doctors’ argument that their remuneration was not in line with comparative remuneration trends in the region. The doctors downed tools pleading incapacitation. This is despite the fact that last week, their employer proposed new allowance rates to cover night duty allowance, nurse managers allowance, on call allowance, special health allowance and a standby/call out allowance. The doctors had, however, rejected the offer.
The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo, last week said Government was appalled by the conduct of the doctors whose duty is to save lives as they abandoned their work stations.
“Government is appalled that doctors have walked out from the negotiating table and from their patients who are in need of their dire care. Government is grateful to those doctors who remained at their posts of duty delivering care, saving lives and alleviating suffering,” he said.