HARARE City Council has threatened to withhold salaries for striking nurses and take disciplinary measures because their job action was illegal, NewsDay can reveal.
About 600 council nurses are on strike.

In a memorandum seen by NewsDay dated November 20, the council, acting human capital director Matthew Marara cautioned nurses that if they are to receive their salaries they have to discontinue their industrial action.

“I have learnt with sadness that most of these ‘striking’ nurses have not taken heed of my call. I will reiterate that the action by the absenting nurses is illegal and in terms of Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) and section 108 (4), the employer is not obliged to pay employees not reporting for duty to render services as per their employment contracts,” Marara wrote.

Marara’s previous memo to the nurses’ union on November 4, directed them to report for duty while dialogue for better salaries was underway and made reference to the talks in the recent memo.

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“Accordingly, council shall proceed and apply the legal principle ‘no work no pay’ and withhold payment of salaries in respect of all the nurses who are not reporting for their duties with effect from the dates they started absconding their duties. Council will continue to withhold the nurses’ salaries up until the time when the striking nurses report for their duty to render services,” Marara said.

“Nevertheless, continued strike action shall inevitably call for disciplinary action.”

Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Council Nurses Workers’ Union secretary-general Tedious Chisango dismissed the threats, saying the only condition for returning to work was when their demand for better salaries was addressed.

“The nurses are not moved by those threats; all they demand is their salaries. If you are trapped between a hard rock and a rough surface, you cannot move and that is the situation with the nurses right now,” Chisango said.

Chisango accused council of being insincere to their plight as it has failed to meet them to address the issues at hand.

“The same excuse, he doesn’t want to recognise us and we have to go through the NEC (National Employment Council) ,” he said.

The union wrote to the NEC and are yet to get feedback, Chisango said.