The Zambia congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has warned of a national industrial crisis should government refuse to rescind its decision to immediately and unconditionally reinstate the more than 200 nurses that have been sacked.
ZCTU secretary general Roy Mwaba has called on the Health Minister Dr Joseph Kasonde to rescind the government’s decision to dismiss nurses charging that the drastic action was not going to address the challenges the health sector was facing.
Mwaba said that the government must realise that the nurses were working under deplorable and pathetic conditions and that it was imperative that their grievances were dealt with in a sober and civilised manner that would not completely cripple the health sector.
The ZCTU chief said at a media briefing at Lusaka Hotel yesterday that government should understand that the demands and concerns of the nurses and other health workers were genuine.
Mwaba explained that government had set a bad precedent for employers in the country and that the labour movement would not find it easy to bargain and even justify their demands in the private sector.
He has vowed that unions would not be intimidated in their quest to ensure the welfare of workers was respected.
He said whoever had advised President Michael Sata to have approved such a drastic measure of handing industrial disputes had made a terrible mistake that would be regretted in future.
Mwaba advised the government not to rule the country with what he termed “iron fist” but that there was need to learn to consult before implementing decisions that had adverse implications on the general welfare of the country.
“When ZCTU called for the national demonstration over the recent announced salary and employment freeze, Government blocked it and here we are now with hundreds of dismissals from one sector. We demand that all the dismissed nurses and midwives should immediately and unconditionally be reinstated,” Mwaba said.
“What is important for now is to have the nurses reinstated. We are appealing for the Government to reinstate all these dismissed nurses. It is shocking that a country with a critical shortage of health workers can resort to such drastic actions such as firing workers for merely demanding the improvement of their working conditions,” he said.
Mwaba has urged the affected nurses not to rush into reapplying for the vacant positions advising that they would have to wait for government to first respond to their demands.