Nurses strike over non-payment of salaries

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Limpho Sello

MOST of the 230 nurses, who were hired as part of the government’s drive to fight Covid-19, have gone on strike to protest the delays in paying their salaries.

The nurses were initially hired in March 2020 on six months’ contracts. The contracts were subsequently extended after it became clear that the deadly pandemic was here to stay. More nurses were hired last December 2020 to beef up the frontline staff complement in the fight against the disease.

They were all attached to various hospitals and clinics across the country to work at the Covid-19 screening points, wards and isolation facilities for patients.

However, their relations with their employer have soured amid claims that they are intermittently paid or not at all in some instances.

They therefore decided to down tools this week. The Health Ministry’s Director General of Health Services, ‘Nyane Letsie, yesterday said she could not comment on the matter because she was out of town in a place where the mobile communications signal was poor.

However, some of the nurses who spoke to the Lesotho Times said they had no choice but strike due to the delays in paying their salaries.

The nurses accused the health ministry of lack of professionalism in that it had not even bothered to explain the delays to them.

“The Ministry of Health is treating us like beggars, they don’t seem to care if we work or quit,” said one nurse who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Another nurse weighed in saying, “some of us began absconding from work in April due to the non-payment of salaries but the government hasn’t bothered to intervene and fix things.

“For them it appears everything is normal and they can’t be bothered. They are not even concerned that we don’t have any money for food, transport and rent”.

This is not the first-time nurses have gone on strike over non-payment of salaries in government health facilities.

They first went on strike last April after the government delayed paying them risk allowances for their frontline duties in fighting Covid-19. They also wanted the government to provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE).

They were joined in that month-long strike by doctors, anaesthetists, laboratory scientists, pharmacists and technicians and nursing assistants. The strike only ended after the government gave in their demands.

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