Zimbabwe striking doctors turn down government offer

HARARE, (Xinhua) — Zimbabwean junior doctors who have been on a three-week strike have turned down government offer to increase their on call allowances by 50 percent and are demanding for further dialogue, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Wednesday.

However, Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa reiterated his appeal to the doctors to return to work, saying government had offered what it could afford for now.

He said the health bipartite negotiating forum had been engaging with the doctors while his office would also make efforts to meet and discuss with the doctors.

“The most important thing is that what we have offered is what we can afford,” the minister said.

The doctors said they do not agree with the government offer and accused it of misrepresenting facts as if they had agreed to the offer.

The doctors are disagreeing with the government on the number of hours they work per month.

While the doctors claim they work 160 hours per month and are being paid 1.50 U.S. dollars per hour, government negotiators, on the other hand, insists they work 72 hours and are paid 5 dollars per hour.

The doctors want the 1.50 dollars increased to 10 dollars per hour.

The strike has paralyzed operations at public hospitals and left patients stranded.

In addition to low pay, the doctors are also protesting against insufficient drugs and equipment at the hospitals.

The strike is the first major industrial action by public workers since the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over last November following the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe.

As a result of close to two decades of economic decline, Zimbabwe’s public health system has deteriorated significantly with brain drain, poor working conditions and shortage of drugs and equipment among the major challenges.