Junior health workers in Blantyre have planned to stage a sit-in from June 1 2020 over allowances, lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and training related to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
In a letter dated May 14 to Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) director of health and social services Gift Kawalazira, copied to district commissioner Bennet Nkasala, the workers say their action follows lack of commitment and political will to address their grievances.
But Nkasala, while acknowledging receipt of the letter yesterday, said the workers—whose cadres range from clinical, environmental and nursing officers—have not followed written labour laws on their grievances.
Among other things, the health workers claim that locum allowances and salaries are not being paid at the recommended and expected time, with unpaid arrears dating back to 2014. They, therefore, demand that payment be made before June 1.
They also claim they are being denied access to in-service professional trainings, claiming only those in supervisory positions, who hardly work on the ground, have benefited.
Reads the notice in part: “We demand equal and rotational trainings to benefit all health workers, including us, the junior staff.
“We are, therefore, making a fearless communication to you that if all our grievances will fail to be attended to by 31st May, 2020, all the junior staff under Blantyre DHO shall go on a sit-in without fear of any form of intimidation and we are geared to further this issue and take unprecedented action on any officer who shall make an attempt to intimidate or threaten us.”
Physicians Assistants Union of Malawi (Paum) president Dr Solomon Chomba in an interview said the action taken by Blantyre healthcare workers is the best way to shake up government which is giving a blind eye to health workers’ welfare.
He said: “Much as health workers fall under essential services, this does not make them charity workers. Government should realise that health workers are human beings with responsibilities like all other workers in various ministries.
“If government continues to suppress healthcare workers, they should expect the worst ever industrial action because we can’t keep watching our members suffering in silence.”
Meanwhile, Nkasala has since said they will be engaging the workers this Friday to try and find amicable solutions.
He said: “They haven’t followed protocol, because they have never brought these issues before to management for discussion. According to labour laws, a petition is the last resort, so they should have told us first before coming to this point.
“But still, we will be have received the petition, and we will look at the [concerns]. This is the first time we are hearing about these issues.”engaging them on Friday. We
Last month, Medical Doctors Union of Malawi (Mdum) wrote government to consider giving them professional and risk allowances, including a non-taxable risk allowance at 70 percent of their salary as well as a professional allowance of 70 percent of their basic salary.
The doctors also demanded PPEs and accommodation.
President Peter Mutharika declared a State of Disaster on April 3 this year due to the Covid-19 poandemic and directed that the Ministry of Health should recruit additional 2 000 health workers in a quest to fight against the disease. At the time, the Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 said government is looking into the welfare of all health workers as they are frontline workers in the fight against the virus.