Zimbabwe plans to limit the frequency of doctors and nurses going on strike over pay that often cripples the country’s fragile health sector.
Under the proposed Health Service Amendment Bill published on 23 July, members of the health industry will be barred from participating in strikes that last longer than three days, or more than 72 hours in a two-week period. Healthcare workers will also be obligated during any collective job action, "to provide the skill, expertise, care and service to patients in a medical emergency or needing critical or intensive care," according to the bill.
A notice of strike must be given in writing 48 hours prior to the start of the industrial action, according to the proposal, which also states that labour-union leaders that incite protests are liable to fines and jail sentences of three years.
The southern African nation has seen recurrent industrial action by nurses and doctors over pay and working conditions. Last year, a four-month strike came to an end after telecommunications billionaire Strive Masiyiwa offered to pay them a subsidy for the next six months.
Shingai Nyaguse-Chiurunge, president of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association, didn’t immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.
Enock Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, which has 12 000 members, said there was no consultation by government on the proposed law.
"The authorities can’t force health workers to give services when they are disgruntled," he said by phone on Monday. "The laws are demoralising and most workers are contemplating going outside the country."