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Zimbabwe court rules doctors strike illegal, should return to work

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HARARE (Reuters) – A Zimbabwean court has ordered doctors on a 40-day strike over pay to return to work within 48 hours, after a ruling that their boycott was illegal.

The Labour Court’s judgement late on Friday says that members of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), which represents junior and middle level doctors in public hospitals, should cease their strike forthwith.

The Health Service Board, which employs the doctors, had asked the court to force them to get back to work, arguing that they were not allowed to strike because they provided an essential service.

The board is entitled to take disciplinary action against doctors who fail to comply with the order, the court said, adding that the two sides should seek arbitration within 14 days.

ZHDA spokesman Masimba Ndoro said the doctors would not return to work.

“Our issue is very clear, doctors are incapacitated. Despite the court order, they can not go back to work until the issues on the table are addressed,” Ndoro said.

The doctors have already said an offer to raise their allowances by 60% was “ridiculous” as it would take their monthly salaries to around 1,700 Zimbabwe dollars ($111), well below their demand of a 400% salary hike.

Zimbabwe is grappling with its worst economic crisis in a decade, amid triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, medicines and fuel.

The doctors’ strike has seen some patients being turned away without treatment.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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