By Ruvimbo Muchenje

Harare City Council nurses have defied an ultimatum to return to work, saying they would only report for duty once their demands for better working conditions have been addressed.

Council acting human capital director Mathew Marara on Tuesday declared the strike illegal and ordered the nurses to immediately return to work, failure of which disciplinary action would be taken against them.

But Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Council Nurses Workers’ Union (ZURCNWU) secretary-general Tedious Chisango yesterday told NewsDay that they would only return to work when their salaries are pegged to the interbank market rate.

“We have also clearly indicated to the council to pay us our salaries at the current interbank rate, not the peanuts we are getting. On my contract of employment I signed for a salary of US$940 not $1 200,” Chisango said.

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The nurses downed tools on Monday, citing incapacitation.

“Council is wrong to refer to this dispute as a strike. We are not on strike, but we are just severely incapacitated. We do not have any means to go to work. No money for transport and no money to sustain our families. Today is November 6 (yesterday), but up to now we haven’t received any salaries for October,” he added.

Chisango also dismissed claims by council that ZURCNWU was a bogus union.

“Whoever fails to recognise our union must revisit the Labour Act Chapter 28:1 because we are legally registered in this country and we have a certificate signed by the Labour minister,” he said.

The ZURCNWU boss confirmed that dialogue between council and the employees was ongoing.

“We haven’t agreed on anything yet, but council health services director Prosper Chonzi has invited us for a meeting,” he said.

Chisango said the union met with the industrial relations manager, but failed to break the impasse.