THE Government has said nurses from neighbouring Zimbabwe are ready to work in Zambia on local conditions of service and made a final appeal for health workers to call off their strike or lose employment.
Chief Government spokesperson, Ronnie Shikapwasha said in an interview in Kabwe yesterday that the Government would not allow a situation where people continued to die as a result of the strike by the nurses.
Lieutenant-General Shikapwasha maintained that nurses who would not report back for work today should consider themselves fired and new ones will be recruited.
“There are Zimbabwean nurses itching to come and work in Zambia and so nurses that will not report back for work today should consider themselves fired. We shall replace them with those that retired as well these from Zimbabwe.
“It is immoral and against the oath of allegiance that nurses take when being employed to continue to be on strike when people are dying in large numbers because of their action. The Government is ready to discuss with the nurses once they resume work,” he said.
Labour and Social Security Minister Austin Liato said in a separate interview yesterday that the Government would guarantee security to all nurses who would return to work as agreed by the Government and union leaders.
“There is no need for nurses to fear that they will be picketed by anyone. And let me warn those that will attempt to disturb their colleagues that they will face the wrath of the law,” he said.
This assurance comes in the wake of Health Minister Kapembwa Simbao’s ultimatum for the nurses to return to work today or be dismissed.
Mr Liato advised all the nurses to seriously reflect on their action to stay away from work because that had caused anguish to the sick who required their services.
He said the nurses should consider returning to work and serve the country because it was better to keep a job than losing it, especially at this time of the global economic recession.
He said that losing a job as a result of an illegal strike would impact on the nurses’ future especially that the Government had not refused to attend to their demands.
He said what the Government wanted was to follow the law and that there was no way it could discuss issues with people who were on the street.
The minister said the Government was not expected to act on nurses’ demands through public acclamation but through roundtable discussions.
A check at the University Teaching Hospital revealed that several nurses had not returned to work and security personnel were only allowing emergency cases to enter the institution.
Meanwhile, the MMD in Kitwe has challenged the opposition to help convince striking health workers return to work because their Members of Parliament (MPs) were part of the decision to award public service workers a 15 per cent salary increment.
MMD district vice-treasurer, Gideon Kamponge, said it was unfair for the opposition to blame the ruling party for the continued strike by nurses because MPs collectively awarded civil servants the 15 per cent salary increment which the nurses were protesting against.
Mr Kamponge said in an interview in Kitwe yesterday that the MPs had approved an 11 per cent salary increment for civil servants during the Budget approval in Parliament, but the Government decided to make it 15 per cent.
[Times of Zambia]