The Government seeks to bar healthcare workers from engaging in industrial action for more than 72 hours in a week by amending the Health Services Act.
The Health Services Amendment Bill has provisions for compulsory arbitration when the Government and health workers’ representatives disagree and negotiations reach an impasse.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi presented the speech for the second reading of the Bill in the National Assembly on Tuesday as Vice President and Health and Child Care Minister Constantino Chiwenga is out of the country on official business in Indonesia.
The Second Reading is when the responsible minister for a particular Bill gives the reasons for the proposed law. Said Chiwenga:
We as Government highly value our public health service workers but they are not the only public service workers we have to care for.
They, like other workers in the public sector, are entitled to decent working conditions and Government will never stop hearing their reasonable grievances about their material well-being but we must balance the aspiration with the reality that in any state, the delivery of affordable public health service is a basic public health good that cannot be withdrawn from our people because of a labour dispute.
Chiwenga added that the Health Services Amendment Bill will make health service an essential service which prohibits healthcare workers from going on strike like other workers. He said:
We are not yet a high middle-income country but our training facilities for health service workers are very good and they are frequently sought after by other countries.
Accordingly, the Bill will declare that health service to be an essential service.
This means that the service cannot be withdrawn by ordinary methods of industrial action.
Instead Madam Speaker, negotiations must be undertaken leading to compulsory arbitration if there is a deadlock between the parties.
At most withdrawal of services during collective job action cannot exceed 72 hours in any week.