Zimbabwe’s public sector doctors strike over salaries

Doctors and nurses demonstrating run away from police in Harare on December 3, 2008 while protesting against poor working conditions and unavailability of drugs, resulting in the collapse of the health sector. AFP PHOTO / Desmond Kwande (Photo credit should read DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Doctors and nurses demonstrating run away from police in Harare while protesting against poor working conditions and unavailability of drugs, resulting in the collapse of the health sector. (Photo credit DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images)

Doctors in Zimbabwe went on strike Tuesday after talks with the government on Monday ended in a stalemate.

The doctors want more money and they want their salaries pegged to the United States dollar as Zimbabwe’s economy struggles with a spiraling cost of living.

The president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association Peter Magombeyi said that the government had taken doctors for granted for too long but they were ready to resume work as soon as they were offered something tangible.

“We met with the government representatives yesterday and they promised to expedite other allowances for health personnel but so far it has just been empty promises,” Magombeyi told Reuters.

It is the second time in 10 months that doctors in Zimbabwe have gone on strike. In December 2018, doctors staged a 40-day strike in protest against low salaries and poor working conditions. They only agreed to resume work after the government pledged to address their grievances.

The main unions for public sector workers said they had rejected an offer made last month to increase public sector wages by 76 percent. This would have seen the lowest-paid worker earn 1,023 Zimbabwe dollars (about $90) monthly.

Majority of Zimbabweans who are unable to afford private health care rely on state hospitals. However, wealthy people have the ability to go to South Africa or Asia to seek medical attention.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of a deep economic crisis which includes triple-digit inflation, power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, the currency it adopted in 2009 causing price spikes and shortages of basic goods, medicines, and fuel.