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Cablegate: Healthcare Strikes "Paralyse" Public Hospitals

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

290957Z Oct 03

UNCLAS HARARE 002146

SIPDIS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PGOV ZI
SUBJECT: HEALTHCARE STRIKES "PARALYSE" PUBLIC HOSPITALS


1. Summary. Doctors and nurses, both defined by the GOZ as
providers of "essential services" and thus precluded from
striking, are engaged in industrial action based on wage
demands. Economic realities increasingly compel workers of
all levels to ignore GOZ laws which try to prevent them from
striking. End summary.

2. Junior and mid-level doctors have initiated the
all-but-annual healthcare strike, in which government health
care professionals demand significant wage increases. After
a similar strike last year, the Ministry of Health reviewed
the duties of various health care professionals and assigned
wages based on the resultant classifications. Doctors at
government hospitals are now demanding an increase from
Z$378,000 per month to Z$30,000,000 per month (an 80-fold
increase from approximately US$66.90 per month to US$5,309.73
per month). "Casualty doctors," many of whom are paid a
somewhat higher rate, have joined the strike. Reportedly,
foreign doctors hired by the GOZ from Cuba and the DRC are
the only ones who remain at work, while the GOZ's major
referral hospitals are described as "paralysed" by the strike.

3. Nurses at government hospitals have also initiated their
own strike, demanding an increase from their base wages,
which range from Z$138,446 to Z$222,967 per month (US$24.50
to US$39.46 per month). Labor contacts report that the
nurses are demanding wages in the vicinity of Z$800,000
(US$141.59) per month.

-------
COMMENT
-------
4. Both the Hospital Doctors Association and the Zimbabwe
Nurses Association are professional associations, which are
historically concerned with maintaining professional
standards and self-regulation of members. With the
continuing economic decline, however, both organizations have
taken on the traditional labor union functions of negotiating
for wages and conditions of service. The GOZ is already
engaged in negotiation with the doctors and will inevitably
come to some compromise, even if it does not meet the
doctors' US$60,000 per annum demand. The demands of the
nurses, since they are less burdensome, may be met in full.

5. Both doctors and nurses are prohibited from striking
through their specific inclusion in the definition of
"essential services" in Statutory Instrument 127 of 2003,
which includes "any service... the interruption of which
endangers immediately the lives, personal safety or health of
the whole or any part of the public." Labor sources believe
that all workers -- regardless of their designation of
"essential" -- are increasingly inclined to ignore the GOZ
pronouncements and engage in strikes based on wage demands.
The GOZ is in a tight spot. It must negotiate with the
doctors to keep its battered health-care system afloat,
another cog in its once-enviable infrastructure that is
rapidly crumbling. If salaries remain below US$100 monthly,
many doctors will emigrate. However, by giving in, the GOZ
encourages all other "essential" services to follow suit.
And in the current economic decline, with inflation at 455%
and the parallel currency market running at 5650:1, there is
little doubt that other "essential" services will comply.
SULLIVAN

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