1 200 Defiant nurses struck off payroll

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MORE than 1 200 nurses who failed to comply with a Government directive to revert to the normal working hours did not receive their November salaries and bonuses after they were struck off the payroll by their employer, the Health Service Board (HSB).

Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) said more than 1 200 of its members who defied the Government directive to revert to the normal working hours did not receive their November salaries and bonuses on the no-work-no-pay basis.

Nurses had crafted a working schedule under which they worked for a few hours a week dubbed “flexible hours”, but the arrangement proved unsustainable, especially with the threat of Covid-19 continuing to hover over the country, resulting in Government cancelling the plan and ordering a return to normal duty rosters.

The flexible working hours originally entailed working long hours of up to 12 for two days a week, an arrangement that was introduced through a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to cushion health workers, particularly nurses, from high transport costs leading to an indefinite strike over erosion of their salaries by inflation.

Most nurses were now working two days a week for 12 hours a day before Government resolved that all health workers should now revert to normal working hours.

Government said it would now compensate for the “flexi-hours” with a tax waiver on all health workers and a US$75 risk allowance.

Government, through a circular, recently directed provincial medical directors and central hospitals’ chief executive officers to scrap the flexible working hours arrangement for nurses and revert to the one which was introduced during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period after Zina cited incapacitation.

Zina president Mr Enock Dongo said his organisation noted that nurses who didn’t revert to the normal working hours were removed from the payroll.

“Everyone who did not follow the new normal working hours schedule were removed from the payroll simply because they adhered to the flexible hours not because they were on strike.

“The nurses affected are more than 1 200 and even up to today those nurses are not on the payroll and they didn’t receive their November salaries and bonuses,” he said.

Mr Dongo urged Government to reinstate the nurses on the salary schedule so that they are able to report for duty.

“How do you expect them to report for work and efficiently offer their services? We took this matter to court challenging Government’s decision to impose normal working hours on them without consultation and we got an interim relief,” he said.

It is however, yet to be seen whether the HSB will put back the affected nurses on the payroll following last week’s ruling by the High Court reversing Government’s decision to scrap the flexible working hours arrangement for nurses.

The ruling by Harare High Court judge Justice Joseph Mafusire followed an urgent chamber application by Zina, through their lawyer Mr Tinotenda Matonhodze of Matizanadzo and Warhurst Legal Practitioners, challenging the Government directive.

Zina, in their court papers, cited the HSB, Health and Child Care Minister, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and his Permanent Secretary Air Commodore Dr Jasper Chimedza, as respondents.

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