The University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) has issued a statement saying that issued a statement in support of the Junior Resident Doctors Association of Zambia (RDAZ) and Dr Brian Sampa.
In a statement released to the media, UNZALARU said that the heavy-handedness of government in intimidating the doctors through threats, unwarranted arrest and eventual dismissal of Dr. Brian Sampa is unfair, miscalculated and unreasonable and makes the situation worse than de-escalate it.
UNZALARU further demanded immediate payment of all the contractual and pension obligations owed to the workers at the University of Zambia.
Below is the full statement
UNZALARU SOLIDARITY MESSAGE WITH JUNIOR RESIDENT DOCTORS ASSOCATION AND DR. BRIAN SAMPA – 9 JUNE 2021
The past weeks have witnessed protests from the Junior Resident Doctors Association of Zambia (RDAZ) demanding, among others, unpaid salary arrears, allowances and non-recruitment of graduate doctors in a country where there is a shortage of health workers in most health facilities. We have also witnessed the heavy handedness of government in intimidating the doctors through threats, unwarranted arrest and eventual dismissal of Dr. Brian Sampa. We find this move unfair, miscalculated and unreasonable and makes the situation worse than de-escalate it
From the foregoing, the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) wishes to state unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with the RDAZ and Dr. Sampa as they are fighting a just cause. As essential workers, they are simply reclaiming their right place in society and in their workplace. We are surprised that those entrusted to oversee the affairs of our doctors are quick to selectively quote and apply the law to the effect that medical personnel are not allowed to undertake a go slow yet the same law does not allow them to exploit workers too. There must be dignity accorded to a worker in service to the nation.
The Union finds it extremely difficult to understand how essential workers could be treated in a manner that defeats the very definition of being essential. If indeed doctors are essential workers, as we are repeatedly reminded, why are they not on priority recruitment and payment of salaries? We, therefore, condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the attempts by the government to intimidate, incarcerate and fire the doctors. It is illogical to be sending doctors who were trained at a great cost to the filthy police holding cells while thousands of patients in the hospital wards are desperately waiting to be served by them. In the same vein, it is grossly unacceptable to have hundreds of trained doctors jobless and roaming the streets when there is a critical shortage of doctors in most of the health facilities in the country, rural and urban, especially amidst a ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, as reported by health officials.
If the medical doctors are indeed essential workers, recruit those who are not employed and pay those who are in employment all what they are owed promptly. DO NOT INTIMIDATE, ARREST OR FIRE THEM. Instead, address the root causes and not attend to symptoms. It is their right to demand what they have worked for just as it is the responsibility of government to ensure that essential services are readily available and paid for on time. It is as simple as that!
In standing in strong solidarity with the medical doctors, we remember our own woes with UNZA Council and government. UNZA Council is attempting, illegally so, to entice unionised workers to grossly dilute their gratuity and pension accrual rates, from 37.5 to 25 percent and from 4.5 to 3 months served each year, respectively, as a condition to be paid gratuity and pension benefits that were due ten years ago and whose worth is less than a third of what it was ten years ago from the recently obtained ZANACO loan. UNZA Council would rather keep this money in their bank account as if to ensure that it devalues further rather than promptly pay the members of staff who have waited for ten years. Meanwhile, there is a shortfall of about Zambian Kwacha (ZMK) Five Hundred Million (K500 million) to pay all the members of staff who have waited for ten years for their gratuity and pension benefits at the University of Zambia. Now is the time for government to practically demonstrate that this debt can be erased once and for all. We have waited enough.
Finally, our message is that the best way to avoid a go-slow and appreciate the essential workers is to pay them their dues promptly and recruit those awaiting employment. There is no other way. Recruit and pay the doctors now! In the same vein, we demand for immediate payment of all the contractual and pension obligations owed to the workers at the University of Zambia.
Andrew Phiri, PhD
Kelvin Mambwe, PhD