Maputo, 19 Jul (AIM) – The Mozambican government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Filimão Suaze, on Tuesday accused striking doctors of violating the right to life in some health units, as a result of their refusal to work.
Speaking at a press briefing, after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) in Maputo, Suaze called on doctors to return to their jobs “in order to respect the constitution.” He was referring to the right to life enshrined in the Mozambican constitution.
Suaze said the strikers are not honouring their promise to provide minimum services in the health units, and this is putting patients’ lives at risk.
Doctors who did not appear at their workplaces should be marked absent, said Suaze, and could face disciplinary proceedings. Once the strikers had exceeded a certain number of absences, they could be presumed to have abandoned their posts, he warned.
The strikers claim that this amounts to coercion and threats. But in fact it is normal throughout the world that, when a worker does not appear at his work, he is marked absent, and receives no wages for that day. That is why trade unions, in countries such as Britain, have established strike funds.
The strike, called by the Mozambican Medical Association (AMM) began on 10 July, and the AMM says it will last for 21 days, but may be extended if no agreement is reached with the government. It has never been clear how many doctors have joined the strike, and the Health Ministry has not commented on how much disruption the strike may have caused.
As for the claims of harassment, which the AMM says some of its members have suffered, Suaze added “the government has no information to comment on this.”
“I think the reference to harassment should certainly be proven so that the government can take the necessary measures”, he said.
“What we know is that 15 issues had been raised by the AMM but two of these were not verified,” Suaze added.
He also explained that five of the issues that had a deadline for resolution in July have already been resolved. There is, Suaze admitted, no consensus on the formula for calculating seniority pay and overtime payments.
The dialogue between the AMM and the government is now at a standstill. The AMM General Secretary, Napoleao Viola, told reporters on Tuesday that the Association is waiting for the government to request resumption of dialogue.
But Health Minister Armindo Tiago says it is the AMM that should express an interest in renewed talks, since it was the AMM that began the strike with a simple letter sent to the Ministry.