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Contract workers petition Chiwenga

CONTRACT workers employed by the Health and Child Care ministry are complaining of unfair labour practice, saying they are being subjected to abuse, discrimination and non-payment of salaries.

The contract workers, among them primary counsellors, data entry clerks and microscopists, have raised the complaints in a letter to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga in his capacity as Health and Child Care minister.

The letter, copied to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, is dated 26 February.

In the letter, the contract workers claim to have last received their salaries on 23 December last year, a situation they said showed that they were not being treated like other health professionals.

"We feel shortchanged, and feel that our own government should at all instances protect Zimbabwean workers from unfair labour practices and that our government should be in the forefront of upholding and safeguarding labour laws in this country and that all organisations that choose to engage workers must adhere to set down laws of the country," the workers said.

The workers are employed by the Health and Child Care ministry on a renewable contract basis financed under the Global Fund.

Zimbabwe, like other low-income and lower middle-income countries, benefits from the Global Financing Facility (GFF), an innovative approach to financing that sees countries significantly increase investment in the health of their own people.

The GFF is a multi-donor trust fund whose vision is to "support countries end preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents and make progress towards universal health coverage by 2030".

Its donors include Canada, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Susan T Buffet Foundation, Laerdal Global Health among others.

As of 2020, the Global Fund had signed grants totalling US$1.67 billion in Zimbabwe since 2003, covering HIV and Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and health system strengthening but contract workers said they are not benefiting.

"We are being denied benefits and working conditions stipulated in the Labour Relations Act, Health Services Act and Public Service Act. Many benefits and conditions of service are deliberately left out or altered to suite the employer while disadvantaging the contract worker," the workers complained.

"We are not entitled to a thirteenth cheque, certain leave days have been omitted from our contracts; we are not entitled to medical assistance. We have no pension or terminal benefits.

"We are not entitled to benefit from any government schemes to benefit its workers. We are excluded from all health sector employment benefits such as risk allowances, retention allowances etc, though we face the same hazardous and dangerous working conditions. We are non-beneficiaries of any civil service benefit schemes."

Health and Child Care ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri had not responded to emailed questions as promised on Tuesday and early Wednesday.

The country's health sector faces numerous challenges, mostly linked to under-funding and bad governance.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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