Thursday, December 19, 2013

Zambia - The Nurses Strike

The nurses strike that had begun at University Teaching Hospital (UTH) went on for 10 days and later spread to the Livingstone General Hospital. The government had warned that striking nurses that they risked losing their jobs. Thus when Labour Minister, Fackson Shamenda, announced on 5th December that the striking nurses were dismissed it caught everyone unaware.

The ZCTU, UPND, MMD, and Medical Association of Zambia all protested. They called upon the PF government to re-instate the nurses (200 had been dismissed). The fact is that the strike action had not been sanctioned by the Medical Association, the nurses union. The primary interest of the professionals such as nurses, just like that of the government, should be the welfare of the patients. That is why there is an oath for this category of worker which you take when you graduate from college...

...the various grievances the health workers face across the country, among these are the problems faced by nurses working in the rural villages where accommodation is poor. But nurses remain essential workers and therfore  cannot go on strike.

Reacting to the UPND’s decision to mount a legal battle in defence of the dismissed nurses, the Labour minister Fackson Shamenda described it as inhuman the opposition party’s utter lack of regard of what patients went through when the nurses went on strike.

The government believes that the nurses were incited to go on strike by the opposition UPND led by Hakainde Ichilema.

The labour minister warned that the chances to be re-instated were very slim because the law in Zambia states that a worker cannot force the employer to re-instate anyone if they are dismissed. The labour minister re-iterated that by law it was an offence by anyone classified as an essential worker to go on strike. The PF, had in fact used its discretion to tolerate the strike for 10 days. I n 2012 (October) the health workers received the highest adjustments to their salaries that were unprecedented in the history of Zambia.

The labour minister believes the UPND had incited the nurses into an illegal strike. Indeed in September the politicians awarded themselves hefty salary adjustments that were above their daily needs.

Indeed in socialism where there won’t be leaders and workers classified as such tasks like nursing will be performed without being paid - everyone will be considered as essential.

Because under capitalism there is always a reserve labour (unemployed) - the PF went on to dismiss 200 striking nurses after which they recruited trainee nurses to supplement the shortage.

This clearly shows that capitlalism does not work in the interests of the workers.

K. Mulenga

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