Chiwenga bans flexi-hours

The government sacked the majority of 15,000 nurses who began a strike this week

A SHOWDOWN is looming between health workers and the government after the Health ministry banned flexi-hours which will see nurses working everyday instead of selected days per week.

In a letter to all hospital chief executive officers and provincial medical directors, permanent secretary in the Health ministry Jasper Chimedza said flexi-hours were giving more problems to hospitals.

“All categories of nurses are supposed to work for 40 hours per week. However, they have been on flexi-hours since November 2019.

“The flexi-hours are causing the following challenges, no proper handover and takeover, no continuity of nursing care, compromised quality of patient care, exaggerated shortage of nurses resulting in inadequate ward coverage.

“Therefore, all heads of institutions are kindly advised to stop the flexi working hours forthwith. “All nurses should resume normal 40 working hours per week with immediate effect,” Chimedza wrote.

But Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo wrote back to Chimedza demanding that he reverse his decision.

“We make the following requests: That you immediately revoke your letter dated the 19th of October, 2020.

That you give government representatives in the Health Service Bipartite Negotiating Panel (HSBNP) an opportunity to raise the issues in the appropriate forum so that we can try and resolve them if they have merit.

“We note that despite our best attempts, your office has not found time to engage us.

“We, however, feel that as a representative body of the largest number of health workers, you urgently find time to slot us in your diary so that you can have an opportunity to hear nurses’ grievances before they explode again.

“This, in our view, is good labour relations and allows for problems to be addressed in good time. “We look forward to your urgent response on the issues we raised, hopefully within the next forty-eight (48) hours, failure of which we will look into taking other options to protect the interest of our members,” Dongo wrote.

He said the move to ban flexi-hours would scuttle the negotiations between health workers and the government.

“At the time you were appointed, nurses had withdrawn their labour as they were incapacitated.

“However, in order to give dialogue a chance and to show the government that we want to give it an opportunity to resolve our grievances, nurses agreed to return back to work.

“Since returning to work, we have waited to be engaged on our grievances, but such engagement has not taken place. “With this as a background, your circular to heads of institutions to remove the flexible hour system is ill-timed and will definitely set the government at a warpath with its employees again,” Dongo added.

He said Chimedza’s circular ran contrary to other communication they received from the Health ministry on May 11 where the authorities said the flexible hour system would remain in place because it reduced exposure to Covid-19.

“You are aware, or should be aware, that dialogue in the health sector is done within the ambit of the Health Service Bipartite Negotiating Panel.

“All stakeholders under this negotiating panel are treated as equals and sector decisions are reached after discussions.

“The decision to implement the flexible working hours system is a product of agreement within the HSBNP.

“It was not given unilaterally by the government, neither did the employees adopt it on their own accord,” Dongo explained.

Source – dailynews