By Blessings Chidakwa
Chitungwiza Municipality nurses yesterday went on strike, attending to maternal emergencies only, citing lack of Covid-19 lockdown allowances, lack of protective equipment and poor working conditions.
At all four Chitungwiza clinics, nurses were present, but on a virtual go-slow as they were only assisting with emergencies at the maternal section until their grievances were addressed.
Chitungwiza Acting Town Clerk Dr Tonderai Kasu described the industrial action as illegal and unnecessary since the nurses were about to be paid by Government, which was taking over the clinics for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The action by Chitungwiza Municipality nurses this morning was completely unnecessary because even before the strike had started, central Government had already made a commitment that it was going to start paying all of our professional health staff,” he said.
“Our health staff rushed to go on the illegal strike unaware of the development. Central Government had previously indicated that they were using powers under the Civil Protection Act to take over our city council clinics in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Dr Kasu said on Wednesday, the municipal adminsitration had a meeting with Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Agnes Mahomva whose agenda was to operationalise the takeover of city council clinics by central Government.
“At this meeting, we were told that central Government is going to be paying all of our council health staff,” he said. “Council, of course, will continue paying its staff, but what council will continue paying will be a top-up to what Government will be paying because it made a commitment that it would be paying our council health professionals.
“We have already submitted banking details of all our health staff to the Ministry of Health and we were expecting to receive the first payment from Treasury for our health staff any time within the next one or two working days, bearing in mind that Friday is a public holiday.”
At St Mary’s Clinic, doors were closed with a poster inscribed “Feel for the health worker” stuck at the main entrance.
Another poster said the nurses would not work if there was no personal protective equipment, Covid-19 allowances, lockdown allowances, food, training on Covid-19 and Covid-19 consumables.
Some workers were basking in the sun and turning away patients.
It was the same at Zengeza 3 Polyclinic where staff was seated outside and not attending to patients.
Some of the nurses who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were not capacitated to continue working and were thus putting their lives at risk.
“Some of us are owed over 36 months’ salaries in United States dollars, which we are unlikely to get,” said ones. “There has been no salary review since January and we are earning less than $1 000 a month.”
Chitungwiza Municipality Workers’ Union chairperson Reverend Ephraim Katsina said Chitungwiza Town Council administration should prioritise the concerns of the health personnel to avoid putting the residents’ lives in danger.
Chitungwiza Progressive Residents’ Association secretary-general Mr Gift Kupurati said it was regrettable that the nurses had stopped work. The Herald