Nurses and some other healthcare workers have now gone on strike over demands for higher salaries and better working conditions. Their specific demand regarding pay is that the government pay them in US Dollars as the inflation in the country drastically hiked to 132 % in May, plummeting their purchasing power.
Doctors, pharmacists, radiologists and some other healthcare professionals joined the nurses to default on going to work since Monday.
The organisers of the strike considered it a huge success as they had received significant country-wide support.
The workers took to the streets with placards and danced outside Zimbabwe’s largest hospitals, Parirenyatwa and Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, demanding better salaries and working conditions.
“Our first goal has been achieved already,” said Dr Tapiwanashe Kusotera, the leader of Health Apex, an overarching body of all the unions in the country’s healthcare sector. “We have been invited for a meeting by the Health Services Board and the ministry. This had not happened in the last 14 months.”
Kusotera emphasized the importance of the government lessening the effect of the hyper-inflation on the workers and seeing to better working conditions for them.
The president of the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union, Robert Chiduku had announced their intention to strike in a letter addressed to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
Chiduku also spoke to Reuters about the situation: “The mood is people are fed up. Our salaries are pathetic.”
According Enock Dongo, the secretary general of Zimbabwe Nurses Association, nurses’ most recent salaries were just 25,000 Zimbabwean Dollars – 50 USD or less with the current exchange rate.
“There is just no way any employee can survive on that. The nurses are saying that they can’t survive on that,” Dongo said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
The value their salaries has significantly diminished. The demand for pay in US dollars will cushion the effect of the hyperinflation as the US dollar is a hard currency. Dongo said they are demanding to be paid 540 USD, the amount they were paid before the local currency collapsed in 2018.
The strike is now the second strike by the nurses since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The last strike, which took place in 2020, did not yield immediate results from the government.
Back then, many were turned away from hospitals as there were not enough workers to attend to them. This – and possibly even worse – could be the case if the Zimbabwean government doesn’t take immediate action.
Economic Crisis in Zimbabwe.
The combination of hyperinflation, rapid currency devaluation, 90 % unemployment and a diminishing manufacturing output have put the southern African country in the grips of a severe economic crisis.
However, this economic crisis did not just start under President’s Emmerson Mnangawa’s regime. The years spent under late Robert Mugabe’s rule have all culminated to form the current situation.
Zimbabwe started using the US dollar in 2009, following a severe hyperinflation that essentially rendered the local currency useless. 10 years later, the Zimbabwe dollar was re-introduced as the local currency, however, it has failed to maintain its value.
One US dollar is equivalent to 500 Zimbabwean dollar on the black market as of now.
Sources: Reuters, Al Jazeera