CIVIL servants’ threats to go on strike if government fails to pay them by close of business today has sent government into a panic mode, with the Health ministry announcing measures to brace for a full-scale strike.
Despite threats by acting Public Service minister Lazarus Dokora, government workers yesterday vowed to go ahead with their planned strike.
All along, government had been downplaying the strike threats by doctors and nurses, but an official in the Health ministry yesterday announced contingency plans as government braces for the potentially crippling strike.
Secretary for Health Gerald Gwinji yesterday urged chief executives of government hospitals and provincial medical directors to brace for the worst-case scenarios, saying: “Following the threat of work stoppage by some health workers, you are hereby requested to make contingency plans to ensure that all hospital critical areas are adequately staffed and remain functional during the said period (Jan 1-5).”
Health minister David Parirenyatwa also said while he sympathised with the health workers, they should give negotiations a chance.
“They surely must be paid on time because health services are very essential.
We are sympathetic to their cause, but the patient must come first,” Parirenyatwa implored.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said his organisation was already making wide consultations with its members to prepare for the mass action if government failed to address their concerns. Ndlovu said threats would not work, and government only has oneoption: to revive dialogue with its workers and immediately address its consequences.
“We encourage government to put in place democratic structures. Threats will not work, they will only fortify us to do more than what we had initially planned,” Ndlovu said.
Dokora on Tuesday warned civil servants against going on strike, saying they should exhaust all channels spelt out by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) before embarking on an illegal strike.
Government has already paid teachers, while the rest of the civil service will be paid on January 5. Teachers, however, had shown dismay after substantial amounts of money, ranging from $50 to $90, were deducted from each as government reintroduces the $7,55 monthly pension contribution.
But Ndlovu said government was the biggest culprit in violating the CSC regulations by announcing issues regarding its workers through newspapers when there were laid-down procedures. “In any way, no strike since independence has been called legal.
We are not going to be moved by these threats. Government has methodically killed dialogue. Although as teachers we have been paid, we still have other concerns.
The issue of bonuses, the deductions made on our salaries and breakdown of dialogue should be addressed,” he said.
“Our planning is independent of the minister. Our plans are not influenced by the wishes of the minister. We will go ahead with the strike if that is what our members have suggested.”
The Public Service Association (PSA), which represents the rest of the civil service, said government should be forewarned of grave consequences should its members go on strike.
PSA in a statement said it felt strongly undermined by government’s failure to engage them, and then make announcements through the media. The labour body said the decision by government to deduct money from their meagre salaries was immoral.
“At this juncture we are finding it difficult to convince our members to be calm at this sad development.
In view of the foregoing, if civil servants resolve to go on strike over prevailing poor conditions of service and lack of serious engagement, the government is hereby forewarned,” PSA said.
Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira on Monday said they had not met the Apex Council, the umbrella body for all civil service labour unions, because government had no money and there was nothing to talk about.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association yesterday weighed in, saying salaries were a human right and government should honour its obligations on time. Govt braces for crippling strike