Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Solidarity with Zimbabwean Strikers


Zimbabwean healthcare workers, the country’s nurses, doctors, pharmacists, radiologists and other medical professionals, have gone on strike to compel the government to pay salaries in US dollars as spiralling inflation has eroded the purchasing power of their take-home pay.

Striking workers held placards and danced outside Zimbabwe’s main hospitals, such as Parirenyatwa in the capital Harare, which is one of the country’s largest referral hospitals, and Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, also in the capital, demanding better salaries.

Zimbabwe is in the grips of an economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation, a rapidly devaluing local currency, 90 percent unemployment, and declining manufacturing output. With the purchasing power of their salaries decimated by an inflation rate upwards of 132 percent, the striking public health workers and other civil servants are demanding that their salaries be paid in US dollars, which they see as a more stable currency. Zimbabwe adopted the use of US dollars in 2009 after its local currency was decimated by hyperinflation. It re-introduced its own currency again in 2019, which is also now failing to hold its value against the US dollar.

Dr Tapiwanashe Kusotera, the leader of Health Apex, a body representing all unions in the healthcare sector, said the government must “cushion the workers” from the vagaries of inflation, and “address specific issues such as cost of living adjustment and working conditions”.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association Secretary-General Enock Dongo warned lives would be lost if the labour dispute was not resolved quickly.

“Nurses got only ZWL$20,000 last week as salaries. This is around US$50 at the official auction rate and only US$30 at the black market,” Dongo explained. “There is just no way any employee can survive on that. The nurses are saying that they can’t survive on that.”

Gift Mugano, visiting professor of economics at the University of Zimbabwe Business School, warned that Monday’s industrial action was the beginning of more strikes in the country.

“This is the beginning of such strikes. I must say that the people have been very patient,” Mugano said.

Zimbabwe healthcare workers strike over wages, inflation crisis | Business and Economy News | Al Jazeera

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