Zambia’s health sector risky – ZCTU

The government may replace nurses but will never replace the combined experience of the dismissed nurses says Zambia Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) President Leonard Hikaumba.

Hikaumba said in an interview that although the PF government can replace the nurses, who were fired, they cannot replace experience.

“The PF government can replace numbers of nurses it fired but you cannot replace experience those nurses had acquired over many years,” he said.

Hikaumba said the union had done everything it could together with other unions to plead for the reinstatement of the nurses but the PF government had refused to listen.

“The PF government is adamant, we have done all we can to try to convince them to re-instate the fired nurses but all in vain,” he said.

Hikaumba said the union had gone as far as sending a delegation to cabinet to plead for reinstatement of the nurses.

“We were hopeful that the nurses would be forgiven after they had had written letters to apologize,” he said.

Hikaumba said his union and many other unions also apologized on behalf of nurses asking government to consider reinstating the nurses but they refused and stood firm on their decision.

“We don’t understand the PF government on their decision to fire the nurses because they have been building clinics and hospitals which will need nurses, so we don’t understand whom they will employ,” he said.

Hikaumba said the government was advised to open a new page with the nurses just when they had been given dismissal letters.

“We realized that proper channels of communication were not followed by the government in firing the nurses,” he said.

He said Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, Zambia Union of Nurses and the Civil servants of allied workers union of Zambia were not consulted when government arrived at the decision to fire the nurses.

“We only received a report from the affected nurses that the minister of labor Fackson Shamenda had gone to discuss with them at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) but he left us as out as ZCTU in the negotiations,” he said.

He said according to the meeting which they had,  some promises were made by the minister of labor but he did not fulfill the promises, he made on behalf on government.

“The nurses had sent us the report of the promises which the minister had made with them at UTH but the minister later come to deny the promise which he had made with the nurses,” he said.

Hikaumba said it was a missed opportunity for his union and other stakeholders but the minister did not involve them in the process.

“The nurses had refused to resume working because the promises made by the minister of labor in the report had anomalies on the implementation of the industrial relation agreement,” he said.

He said the salaries of nurses were almost equivalent to that of the classified employees (lowest rated officers of the government).

“This was reviewed after the pay slips of classified employees were produced in one of the meetings which the nurses had with the minister,” he said.

He said it was after this time when the Union thought a general amnesty must be considered in order to reinstate the fired nurses.