Government in a fix as doctors’ debacle gets complicated

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THE fate of junior and middle level doctors who failed to attend last week’s hearings is now at the mercy of government, legal experts have said.

Failure to attend the hearings by the doctors has reportedly split the Health Services Board (HSB), with some saying they wanted all the doctors on industrial action fired while others only wanted the leadership gone.

Labour expert Zakeyo Mutimutema said only a hearing would get the doctors to state the reasons of their failure to report to work, adding would be inappropriate to just fire them without a hearing.

“It is reasonable for the doctors to say they were incapacitated to attend the hearings and the government was supposed to reschedule the hearings so that they are given a fair trial,” Mutimutema said.

At law,when a worker fails to attend a hearing, he or she has to alert the disciplinary board on time, said the labour expert, adding: “The HSB now has the final decision to fire them or keep them on the job if they didn’t notify the board for a reschedule of the hearings.”

Mutimutema also said if government was to pass a judgment against the doctors, it would be legally wrong to fire the leadership at the exclusion of all the others involved.

“If government decides to charge these doctors, it should not apply the law selectively as the parity principle says similar sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences committed in similar circumstances should be applied in all cases.”

Mutimutema cited the Jiah and others versus the Public Service Commission and another ruling of 1999, which he said would take precedence in the case of the striking doctors.                                                                                        

Another labour lawyer, Munyaradzi Gwisai, added that doctors were legally correct to abscond the hearing as they were constitutionally right to say they were incapacitated and could appeal whatever judgment government is going to issue.

According to the Constitution, government is obligated to give its employees fair and reasonable wages.

He further said the doctors’ issue was a constitutional crisis and should be dealt with accordingly, adding that government had failed to implement policies that would benefit the workers at large.

“The doctors’ crisis is not theirs alone but of all the workers and it is going to erupt one day and should not be ignored. Government should not get away with it,” Gwisai said.

He further said workers must reject being made to work  without reasonable remunerations.

“The labour Act is very clear: NO Pay No Work and you can’t force the doctors to go to work as this will be classified as slavery, according to the international labour organisation,” he said.

The junior doctors last week failed to attend disciplinary hearings that were scheduled to take place at various government hospitals after citing incapacitation.

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