Health workers have threatened a fresh industrial action to protest government’s decision to effect a 30 percent tax on their risk allowances relating to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
In an interview yesterday, Physicians Assistants Union of Malawi (Paum) president Dr Solomon Chomba said they have learnt with shock that government is taxing their risk allowances.
He said government promised to pay the allowances effective April, but did not. He said that during a follow up meeting last week, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr Dan Namarika assured them the allowances would be paid in arrears alongside their May salaries.
National Organisation of Nurses Midwives (Nonm) president Shouts Simeza said taxation of the health workers’ risk allowance has come as a surprise.
He also asked government to sustain the revised risk allowance even after Covid-19 pandemic.
Following confirmation at the weekend that five heath workers have been infected with Covid-19 in Blantyre, Paum has also asked government to start processing compensation for the affected workers.
Chomba said the cases vindicate their demand for government to provide health workers with personal protective equipment.
During a press briefing in Mzuzu where he gave the status update on Covid-19 cases, Minister of Health Jappie Mhango said he was not aware of the health workers’ concerns, but insisted that the issue of tax is normal.
In April government bowed to health workers’ pressure and revised risk allowances for doctors, nurses and midwives, clinicians and medical assistants. The allowances were raised from the lowest K1 000 to K60 000 as the highest depending on grades.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that health workers are at the frontline of the Covid-19 outbreak response and as such they are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection.