Zimbabwe nurses to start strike on Monday over cost of living

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HARARE, June 16 (Reuters) – Zimbabwean nurses unions said on Thursday their members would strike next week to protest at poor salaries and working conditions, the second walk-out by nurses since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Our members will not be able to turn up for duty starting on Monday June 20,” Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union president Robert Chiduku said in a letter addressed to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

The government and health workers are at an impasse over pay, as inflation in Zimbabwe jumped to 131.7% in May, a grim echo of the hyperinflation that wiped out everyone’s savings a decade ago.

The last strike, in 2020, forced hospitals to turn away patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nurses in Zimbabwe are paid 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($79.37) a month, the unions say.

Chiduku said the union had “combined forces with our sister unions. The mood is people are fed up. Our salaries are pathetic”, Chiduku told Reuters.

Enock Dongo, head of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), said he was mobilising members for the strike, but was waiting to hear a response from them before declaring that they would join in.

A strike would further cripple a health sector already understaffed by nurses leaving to work in the West.

Zimbabweans have been losing patience with President Emmerson Mnanagwa’s government, which has promised to end years of economic crisis that started under his predecessor Robert Mugabe. The government blames Western sanctions on some of its officials for the economic crisis.