Civil servants yesterday rejected the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), saying the prevailing economic conditions are not conducive for such a scheme as Government is struggling to meet its current obligations to its employees.
cecilia alexCivil servants, through the Apex Council, a body bringing together civil servants’ unions, said although the scheme is noble, but Government does not have financial muscle to augment its sustenance because of the negative economic conditions.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service Labour and Social Welfare, Apex Council executive comprising the chairperson Mrs Cecilia Alexander, her deputy Mr Ladislous Zunde, information and publicity secretary Mr George Mushipe, called on Government to shelve the scheme and resume it when conditions are favourable.
“The timing for the introduction of this scheme could never be more offside. Civil servants in Zimbabwe have not had a salary increment in years now, in spite of the salaries being below the poverty datum line,” she said.
“Regardless of this fact, in the past year, Government has unilaterally deducted an average of $40 per month from every worker towards pension and more recently NSSA has had to regularise contributions by increasing Government workers contributions by 0,5 percent.
“It should be brought to the attention of Government that the milking cow has no milk anymore. Civil servants are now overtaxed, underpaid and overworked.”
The sentiments by the Apex Council come after Cabinet in November last year, approved the setting up of the scheme to assist the majority of Zimbabweans to access universal healthcare.
All sections of the community, including those in the informal sector and farmers, will be considered to ensure all citizens have access to health cover. Drafting for the Bill started following the approval of principles presented to Cabinet by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira, supported by her Health and Child Care counterpart Dr David Parirenyatwa.
Civil servants, Mrs Alexander said, were not consulted on the Bill and are surprised that Government proceeded with the scheme even after they rejected it last year. She said the timing was offside considering that they have not had salary increments for the past three years, and that they are yet to receive their 13th cheque for 2016.
PSMAS, Mrs Alexander said, was owed thousands of dollars by Government and against such background, it would be favourable to bankroll PSMAS first before undertaking a big project such as the proposed NHIS.
“The Government of Zimbabwe has an obligation to consult all workers before implementing this scheme. Disturbingly, the Government seems determined to proceed without such consultation and in breach of Section 65 of the Constitution and ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which give workers the right to consult and be consulted,” she said.
“This omission will not augur well for the success of the scheme if key stakeholders do not have a buy- in. “It is also indisputable that the state of healthcare delivery in Zimbabwe is in deplorable state with our health institutions incapacitated to provide the most basic care.
“Workers feel that this will be just another tax with no guaranteed health service to them.”
Establishing the NHIS was mooted in 2007 but was shot down by workers as they argued that it would further strain overtaxed workers since the initial proposal was to tax workers five percent.