By Nyasha Chingono
HARARE -Zimbabwean health workers went on strike on Monday after rejecting a 100% wage hike offer last week, pressing their demand for payment in U.S. dollars as the local currency slumps.
Zimbabwe’s main nurses’ union urged the government to negotiate and warned that lives would be lost if the dispute was not resolved quickly.
The government and health workers are at an impasse after inflation jumped to 131.7% in May, a grim echo of the hyperinflation that wiped out people’s savings a decade ago.
Government workers rejected the below-inflation 100% wage hike offer on Friday.
At Sally Mugabe Hospital in Harare, patients seeking treatment sat in the courtyard while doctors, nurses, radiographers and pharmacists left their workplaces to protest.
“The salaries that the health workers received last week were pathetic,” Enock Dongo, head of the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association, told Reuters, adding that the majority were paid 20,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($53) a month.
He said health professionals across the country had decided to strike until they were paid US$540 a month, the pay they used to receive in 2018 before the local currency slumped.
Kindness Paradza, the deputy minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, said the government was trying to find “a positive solution” to the standoff, against a backdrop of economic challenges faced by the country due to sanctions.
Zimbabwean authorities blame the sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union since 2001 for the economic ills plaguing the southern African nation.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from longtime leader Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has struggled to end an economic crisis that started under his predecessor.
($1 = 378.0000 Zimbabwe dollars)