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Zimbabwe doctors end strike over pay

March 04, 2007|From Reuters

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Doctors have halted a two-month strike over pay that plunged the country's creaking healthcare system into crisis, the health minister said Saturday.

David Parirenyatwa said the government had reached a pay deal with the doctors, who wanted better salaries to keep pace with Zimbabwe's roaring inflation.

Nurses and paramedics had also joined the strike, paralyzing a public health system already stretched by the burden of HIV/AIDS, but they had already returned to work after agreeing to a separate pay deal.

"Everything is back to normal," Parirenyatwa said.

Government doctors stopped work in December, demanding an 8,000% wage increase, with the government offering a 300% hike.

Before the strike, state doctors earned currency worth about $224 at the official exchange rate but about $7 on the black market.

The president of the Hospital Doctors Assn., Kuda Nyamutukwa, confirmed that doctors had agreed a pay deal with the government but declined to give details of the new wages.

President Robert Mugabe's government has come under increased pressure from workers who have borne the brunt of a deepening economic crisis, which has seen inflation soar to almost 1,600%.

The authorities last week averted a full-scale strike by government employees when it awarded them the second wage increase in as many months after teachers, the majority of civil servants, began a strike.

The government has begun talks with trade unions and business leaders over a proposed wage and price increase that it hopes will arrest inflation.

Analysts have warned that rising discontent over the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe could trigger street protests against Mugabe's government.

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