Nurses Zimbabwe- Zimbabwe on Tuesday outlawed job action for nurses and other health workers who now face six months imprisonment for striking
According to new Health Service Amendment Act 2022, the workers will now be jailed, fined for inciting or participating in job action.
The signing into law of Health Services Bill by President Emmerson Mnangagwa comes as the country’s health workers are on a collision course with government over poor salaries.
Nurses in Zimbabwe, earn less than US$100.
The country has seen a huge skills flight with more than 4000
health workers leaving the country for greener pastures since 2021.
“Any individual who is a member of the governing body of any trade unions or representative of body of members of the Health Service which incites or organises any collective job action contrary to subsection (2)(b) or © shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 4 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment “
Health professionals in Zimbabwe last held protests in June last year but returned to work following meetings with health officials.
There are growing fears that the recently signed Health Service Amendment Act could trample on the rights of health workers.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the Act is neither democratic nor consultative.
He said public health sector workers are now disadvantaged in several ways because they have no right to strike and they cannot engage in collective bargaining.
“It is unfortunate that health workers are caught in the middle of a system that is slow to respond to their needs and ethical pressures not to take collective job action,” Rusike said.
“The unpopular Health Services Act will most likely exacerbate the exodus of health workers from the country thereby putting extra pressure on those who will remain on their jobs.”
He urged government to address the conditions of service for health workers to plug the brain drain.
While there are no exact statistics on the number of health professionals who left the country in 2021, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association put the figure at just over 2000.
Last year, government announced plans to ban doctors and nurses from embarking on job action lasting more than three days under new proposed amendments to the Health Services Act.