Striking nurses will be subjected to the normal charge of absenteeism

Dr Joseph Kasonde

GOVERNMENT has warned striking nurses that they will be subjected to the normal charge of absenteeism because their withdrawal of labour is illegal.
Minister of Health Joseph Kasonde said charging striking nurses will help root out indiscipline and irresponsibility in the work of health professionals, in the interest of the welfare of society, particularly the sick.
Dr Kasonde said this yesterday in Parliament in a ministerial statement on the week-long strike by some nurses at Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country’s largest referral medical institution.
He said it is sad that some nurses have decided to go on strike even when there is no industrial dispute declared between any of the workers’ unions and Government.
Dr Kasonde said the work stoppage by nurses and midwives or any other worker in the Ministry of Health at the moment is illegal.
“Against this background, Government is extremely disappointed with the action of the nurses who resorted to illegal work stoppage. This shows lack of appreciation of the efforts Government has continued to implement to improve their conditions of service.
“While the government remains committed to improving the conditions of service for all workers, we may be witnessing in this experience the emergence or perpetuation of indiscipline and irresponsibility in the work culture of health professionals. This phenomenon must be rooted out without delay in the interest of the welfare of society and the sick,” he said.
Dr Kasonde said to continue to provide care to patients and avoid loss of life due to the strike by nurses, UTH management has engaged students.
He said management has also requested for support from directors of private nursing schools to deploy their students.
The institution has also mobilised nurses on contract and part-time to work at the hospital.
UTH management has also recalled nursing sisters on leave.
Dr Kasonde said Government has engaged the Zambia Union of Nurses Organisations (ZUNO) to explain the details and implications of the 2013 collective agreement signed between the government and ZUNO.
He said both parties have engaged the Public Service Management Division to rectify some disparities that may have been observed on some payslips.
The collective agreement awarded a total of 21 percent to nurses and midwives, including a 4 percent raise on the basic salary, 2 percent added to the existing 5 percent basic salary as commuted night duty allowance and 15 percent of one’s basic salary as the newly-introduced health personnel shift differential allowance.
Dr Kasonde, however, said following the changeover to new salaries and conditions of service which were effected in September, some disparities were observed, resulting in underpayments affecting a small number of nurses and midwives in particular salary grades.
He said instead of nurses receiving the agreed 4 percent increment on the basic salary, some only received 1.1 percent.
Dr Kasonde said the problem is associated with the migration from a fragmented salary structure to a single-spine salary structure that the government is implementing.