Maputo, 17 Aug (AIM) – The Mozambican Medical Association (AMM) on Wednesday threatened to order its members to withdraw the minimum services they are currently providing in the public hospitals.
The AMM is heading a doctors’ strike that is now in its second month. It claims that its members are trying to spare the public from suffering by providing a set of minimum services. However, the Ministry of Health says that, in reality, the strikers are not providing minimum services.
On Tuesday, the government hardened its position. At a press briefing after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), the government spokesperson, the Deputy Minister of State Administration, Inocencio Impissa, warned that doctors who have not yet been formally appointed to positions in the public administration could be sacked at any moment.
Doctors on strike would also not be paid for the days they are absent from work. This should not have come as a surprise to the AMM, since it is standard practice across the world for workers not to be paid for days they are absent from their jobs without justification.
The AMM responded with a press conference on Wednesday, at which it threatened that the strikers would not only withdraw the minimum services, but revoke the concessions they had supposedly made to the government at the start of the year.
The initial list of demands from the AMM dates from October 2022. The ensuing negotiations saw the AMM drop several of its demands, and a memorandum on the talks was signed by both sides in February. Now the AMM is threatening to tear that agreement up and go back to square one.
A press release issued by the AMM accused the government of resorting to threats and intimidation. The AMM chairperson, Milton Tatia, said that, if the government were to sack any striking doctors, or cut their wages, then “The minimum services will be interrupted, no doctor will return to work, and the government will have to hire more than 1,500 doctors for our health units”.
This implies that the AMM exercises complete control over all Mozambican doctors. But by no means all doctors are on strike, and last week, the AMM leadership threatened to expel from the Association any doctors who did not join the strike,
Tatia also threatened that the AMM would tell doctors not to work in the emergency services, or at weekends or after normal working hours “and the responsibility for these services will lie with the government”.
Among the concessions the AMM had made at the start of the year, said Tatia, were eliminating the “special bonus” of about 21,000 meticais (330 US dollars, at the current exchange rate) paid to doctors each month) and the reduction of the shift allowance from 30 to five per cent of the basic wage.
On two questions the government says it could not give way. These are the formulas used for calculating overtime pay and seniority bonuses.
The AMM points to a government decree of 2013 which covers these points. But Impissa says that decree was never implemented precisely because it is illegal – a decree can never override a law, he pointed out.
“The decree approves a norm which is contrary to the law”, he stressed. “So the government never implemented that norm”. The illegality lies in the discriminatory nature of the AMM’s demands which would give doctors much higher seniority bonuses and overtime pay than any other sector of the public administration.