HARARE – The Labour Court ruled on Friday that the ongoing strike by doctors was legal.
The Court threw out an application in which the Health Services board (HSB) sought to have the strike deemed illegal.
In its application, the HSB condemned the doctors’ industrial action arguing that they are not supposed to strike as their services are essential.
However, the Labour Court dismissed the application on a technicality.
In its judgment whereby the Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors Association (ZHDA) is cited as the respondent, the court ruled that HSB’s application was prematurely handled.
“The matter having been prematurely set down before the papers were regularised, it be and is hereby struck off,” Justice Euna Makamure ruled.
According to ZHDA’s lawyer Munyaradzi Gwisai, HSB filed the application at the Labour Court but did not serve it to the doctors’ legal practitioners as is required.
“We did not know about the application filed by the HSB till yesterday (last Friday) when we went before the judge. The board was supposed to serve its application to us but it did not,” Gwisai told the Daily News.
Gwisai advised that government should instead come to terms with their employees’ demands for progress’ sake.
“I think the HSB should just come to terms with our client’s concerns so as to move forward. It’s not true that they are not entitled to strikes as Section 55 of the Zimbabwean Constitution gives them the right to do so,” Gwisai said.
The striking doctors are protesting the severe shortages of pharmaceutical drugs at public hospitals, the selling of available drugs in foreign currency by retail pharmacies, the poor state of the country’s hospital infrastructure and their “falling” salaries which they now want the government to pay in foreign currency.
Government recently ordered striking medical doctors to return to work, rejecting demands for salaries in US dollars, with the workers’ union also becoming inflexible in their negotiations.
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo said government has ruled out doctors’ demands to be paid in US dollars and castigated them for misplaced priorities. He said the doctors must “return to work” while the two parties continue negotiations.
“On the payment of salaries in US dollars, naturally, Cabinet does not feel like that is the right way to go either. Is it a correct way to think, especially in an environment where the US dollar is scarce?” Moyo asked rhetorically.
The minister said it sounds awkward for doctors to demand salaries in greenback instead of pushing for the availing of US dollars required to purchase drugs.
The strike, which began earlier this month, has provoked anger among Zimbabweans and put pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The doctors’ union, which has about 1 000 members, wants the government to implement a deal agreed way back to give them a pay rise, hike allowances and address drugs shortages in hospitals. “The doctors, who earn a basic monthly salary of about $385 before allowances, are also demanding a hike in on-call allowances by 25 percent to $10 an hour paid in cash.