THERE is always going to be a challenge if government continues using a command system to get its way, especially against reason. Setting the condition that it will only hold negotiations with striking health workers on the condition that the health professionals return to work betrays government’s failure to deal with issues, thus opting to resort to threats.
The moment government begins to issue threats because it has failed to get its way, even if it is sometimes unreasonable, shows that it has not learnt the art of negotiation, which must be anchored on persuasion, thus it quickly resorts to issuing brusque commands, accompanied by threats for good measure.
While government may feel the 60% salary adjustment it made for the medical practitioners is an attractive package, nothing can be further from the truth. Given the local currency’s and RTGS’ rapid loss of value on the market, the increment, if it can be called that, is not going to stretch very far, implying that government needs to relook at its solution to the whole economic crisis in which low incomes are just but a fractional symptom. Unless the fundamentals are addressed, the current economic crisis will not relapse.
Of course, government was always going to insist it is not in a position to pay health workers in United States dollars, nor in local currency at the interbank rate, preferring a percentage-based increment. But the major question is: Will this be sustainable given the rate at which the local currency is losing value and as traders continue to peg the prices of goods and services in United States dollars? Where we are right now is exactly where we were in 2008-2009 when the economy self-dollarised and it might not be too far-fetched to suggest that we are again probably headed in that direction.
Although Health minister Obadiah Moyo insisted government was guided by the law, we don’t see how taking health workers to court is going to solve the problem. Court judgments are not going to miraculously wipe away the grievances of government workers. Ordering people to return to work without addressing their grievances can only be effected on paper as they are “incapacitated”.
Government seriously needs to rethink the way it has handled the economy over the last two years and make the necessary changes and adjustments, otherwise the economy will remain in a tailspin. And an economic crisis is not resolved through commands but rational, well thought-out and tested economic models that bring results which will automatically resolve many of the socio-economic challenges bedevilling Zimbabwe.