Nurses Incapacity and Directive to Withdraw Labour by the Health Apex Council

We refer to the above matter and would want to state the following:

  • On the 8 of June 2020, nurses, together with other health workers represented by the Health Apex Council withdrew their labour citing incapacity.
  • From then onwards, whilst some health workers have not been attending work. some, including nurses, have continued to subsidise the government and have continued going to work.
  • In response, government has decided to remain quiet outside of an offer which was rejected the moment it was made on the basis that it does not address the incapacity all health workers are currently facing.
  • Government’s lack of action, and more importantly the refusal to engage the membership leadership on the ongoing job action suggests to us that it has still not accepted that its workers are incapacitated. Had it so accepted, urgent steps to address this situation would have been taken the moment we advised of our intention to withdraw labour.
  • We have taken this opportunity to write to our constituency of nurses just so to reinforce what we are all going through. We will use a lived example below:

Currently the RBZ trading rate of the Zimbabwean Dollar to the United States Dollar is at 57.30. What this means is that for every US$100, a person would legally get ZW$5,730.00

0ur survey has shown us that the majority of workers are not being paid ZW$5,730.00. Who this means is that the ordinary nurse is earning far below USS100, even using the already rejected 50% increment offered by government.

However, the reality on the ground is that very few goods and services are being offered at the RBZ rate. Rather, most pricing is made using the parallel market rate which currently stands at over 100 i.e. for every US$100.00 a person will go ZW$10.000. Using this measure, it means the majority of nurses are earning anything between US$30 — US$40.

Whilst the government would not want to make reference to the parallel market rate, we have no choice but to refer to it because it is our lived experience. It is the rate we are faced with when we have to transact even in established supermarkets. To put this in perspective, if one is to walk into a supermarket today with ZW$1,000 (being one third of the majority of nurses’ salaries), one would only be able to buy 2 litres cooking oil, two kg of sugar. 2 litres of drink, 2 kg of rice and 2 loaves of bread.

Despite the above, a nurse out has to pay for rent, school fees, medical fees and other essential items. For those who own cars, they cannot toot tool it up to full tank anymore because it now costs more than their salaries to do so.

Therefore, the reality which any reasonable person will accept is that we are incapacitated from attending work, even if we wanted to. The $3.000 average salary we coned is not sufficient to cover for basic needs without even adding the costs required for a nurse to attend work.

The point we are trying to make above is that the salaries we are currently earning are so meagre as to amount to slave wages. If one is expected to attend to work. and yet cannot buy the most basic of things, it is as good as not being employed.

As the Zimbabwe Nurses Association which represents the largest number of nurses in Zimbabwe, we have a duty to look after the interests of our members. We therefore cannot condone the current situation and remain with a conscience when we know that a nurse has literally been turned into a pauper. Nurses make up a great chunk of the health delivery system and lives are saved every day through our contributions. If this is not enough for our employer to pay us a salary that recognises our importance and protects our dignity, then nothing else will.

Having discussed this with the Association Executive, we hereby call upon every nurse in Zimbabwe, from those working at a rural clinic in the most remote parts of the country all the w, up to those working at the Central hospitals, to immediately do the following:

  • For those who have not been going to work, continue withholding your labor.
  • To those who have been subsidising our employer by going to work, mostly because you may have an alternative source of income, we call upon you to reconsider this and withdraw your labour as well.

We remain hopeful that government is going to consider just how incapacitated we are and engage us to address this issue.

We trust the above is in order.

Source: Zimbabwe Nurses Association