Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe doctors strike again over pay

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By Hendricks Chizhanje

HARARE - Zimbabwe's junior doctors on Tuesday went on strike barely six months after a similar work boycott to demand better salaries and improved working conditions.

Kuda Nyamutukwa, the President of the Hospital Doctors' Association, said 350 doctors at the country's four major state-owned hospitals had downed tools to force the government to hike their salaries to match inflation which currently stands at 2 200 percent.

"Doctors have downed tools. We are now among the lowest paid professionals in Zimbabwe.

"We don't have figures that we are demanding but the government must know that doctors in Zimbabwe now earn about US$9 a month and that is less than US$3 per week. We want an immediate salary review," said Nyamutukwa.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe seven-year old economic crisis that has wiped out real wages.

Western governments and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party blame the crisis on President Robert Mugabe's mismanagement of the economy.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says an average family of five now needs about Z$1.7 million to survive but most junior doctors earn far less than that amount.

A junior doctor earns about Z$600 000 a month but take home about Z$1.1 million with allowances.

Nyamutukwa said the doctors were not asking for specific figures for salary increments adding that the government must quickly address their plight.

"We don't want to talk to anyone anymore. We just want them to address our salary concerns," said Nyamutukwa.

Strikes by doctors over pay and better working conditions are common in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's health delivery system, once the envy of many in Africa, has virtually collapsed after years of underfunding and mismanagement.