Daniel Nemukuyu, Harare Bureau
Nurses who were recently fired by Government for embarking on an illegal job action have been left exposed after the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) yesterday withdrew a High Court challenge against their dismissal.
The health workers downed tools last week on Tuesday demanding outstanding allowances agreed under the inclusive Government in 2010.
Although Government obliged by releasing $17 million to meet their demands, the nurses, against pleadings by the authorities, insisted they would not return to work until the money started reflecting in their accounts.
Government, which argued that the strike was putting patients’ lives at risk, eventually decided to fire the striking nurses.
The panicky Zina responded by instructing its lawyers, Kantor & Immerman, to file an urgent chamber application at the High Court to nullify the dismissal. In the application filed last Friday, Zina wanted Government to be barred from terminating employment for the striking nurses.
Alternatively, Zina wanted the court to nullify termination of employment in the event that it was already effected. However, Zina yesterday made a u-turn and filed a notice of withdrawal.
The notice reads: “Be pleased to take notice that the applicants hereby withdraw their urgent chamber application for an interdict.
“Further take notice that each party shall bear its own costs.”
In his founding affidavit, Zina secretary-general Mr Enock Dongo stated that the association had given adequate notice to the employer before embarking on the strike, which affected most public health institutions.
He said the notice was given after the nurses had raised their grievances with their employer.
“In compliance with the law, we gave the first respondent (Health Services Board) notice of our intention to resort to collective job action should our grievances remain unaddressed.
“Upon the expiry of the notice referred to above, and when the first respondent failed to address our concerns, we embarked on a lawful collective job action,” reads the affidavit.
Mr Dongo described Government’s press statement firing the nurses as unlawful.
“I aver that the press statement is illegal for all intents and purposes,” he said.
“This does not only violate applicants’ right to fair labour practices, but poses a serious danger to the delivery of health services.
“First of all, the conduct of the nurses who are members of Zina was legal as they were exercising their labour rights in general and in particular the right to engage in collective bargaining. They did everything in compliance with the dictates of the law,” reads the affidavit.
The summary dismissal, Mr Dongo said, was done in violation of the applicants’ right to be heard and to administrative justice. “In terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the applicants have a right to be heard prior to an administrative decision affecting them being made. The applicants were not accorded that right,” Mr Dongo said.
The case was withdrawn yesterday before Government filed its defence, leaving the nurses in the cold.