Zimbabwe: ZCTU Blasts Parliament for Passing ‘Illegal’ Health Services Act – Health Workers Face Jail for Striking Under Statute

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has castigated parliament for approving the “illegal” Health Services Act in contravention of fundamental human rights.

Among other questionable clauses, the new law criminalises collective job action which goes beyond 72 hours.

Any member of the Health Service who breaches the Act shall be liable for a fine and a prison sentence not exceeding six months or both.

Several key stakeholders have criticised the new legislative piece warning that it will only demoralise staffers in the health sector and accelerate brain drain.

Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com Wednesday, ZCTU president Florence Taruvinga questioned how the amendments received parliament’s nod despite being grossly defective.

“We have a Supreme law that is the constitution.

“We do not know why legislators decided or otherwise pretended not to understand the Constitution which guarantees the right to demonstrate.

“This on its own means there is need for relevant government departments and stakeholders to educate our legislators for them to appreciate the Constitution and workers’ rights in Zimbabwe because both houses Parliament and the Senate have demonstrated ignorance in passing a bill fraught with provisions that violates the constitution,” she said.

Taruvinga argued that the right to strike is explicitly provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

She raised suspicions that the new law could have been prompted by government’s zeal to deal with job actions which took place in 2021 and 2022.

Taruvinga said government should consulted and engaged a social dialogue than imposing a “draconian law.”

“As we press for decent working conditions for the health sector, we believe that the need for quality health care for citizens must not be compromised,” said Taruvinga.

The ZCTU leader vowed that no stone will be left unturned in making sure that the sector’s labour rights are protected.

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) Executive Director Calvin Kobiri Fambirai said the law was oppressive.

“We made engagements with health workers across the country and it was unanimously agreed that this Bill will not save its purpose but was in fact draconian, in that it takes away the right for employees to picket the employer.

“There is an urgent need for an engagement or the situation will get worse when they (authorities) expect it to be better.

“We already had a risk of brain drain. Health workers have been leaving the country for greener pastures and this is likely to rise,” he said.

Fambirai said public health workers will be frustrated if the right to express their emotions is stripped off.

He said this will likely result in poor performance.

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