Mozambique: Striking Doctors Seek Injunction

Maputo — The Mozambican Medical Association (AMM) has asked the Administrative Tribunal to issue an injunction that would annul the effect of administrative measures taken by the Health Ministry against striking doctors.

These measures are essentially the declaration that doctors who do not show up for work are absent, and therefore suffer the penalties for absenteeism (essentially the loss of wages for the days not worked).

AMM spokesperson Napoleao Viola, cited by the independent television station, STV, declared “We believe that the government is threatening us and so, to contain this situation, we have decided to apply for an injunction, so that all these illegal actions taken by the executive will have no impact on the doctors who are exercising a constitutional right’.

In fact, the government has not suggested that the strike is illegal. There is, however, no doubt that the striking doctors are absent from work. That is, after all, the whole point of a strike. Describing the strikers as absent is a statement of fact.

All over the world, people who do not show up for work are not paid for the days on which they are absent. That is why trade unions often establish strike funds to support their members who are on strike – a measure the AMM has not taken.

The government has decided to recruit 60 Mozambican doctors, who are currently not employed by the National Health Service, to replace the strikers.

Viola declared that the AMM supports this measure – he added that “it would be good if the government were to hire all the other doctors who are currently unemployed’.

The health service had not recruited these doctors previously for budgetary reasons. The constraints on the Mozambican state budget mean that not every doctor who completes a medical training course will be able to walk into a job in a public health unit. Some, however, may be in private practice.

The new recruits will initially replace the strikers on a temporary basis, but the government has warned that the placements could become permanent, if the strikers do not return to work.

Neither the AMM nor the Health Ministry have issued reliable statistics about the strike. It is thus not clear how many doctors are on strike, and how many health units are affected.

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