Striking nurses in Zambia have defied a government deadline to return to work or face dismissal. They have been on strike for more than three weeks demanding an increase in pay and a variety of allowances. Unions have also urged them to return to work as the government says it will only negotiate if the strike ends.

SACK THREATThere has been a public outcry about the strike after a woman gave birth in a hospital car park in the capital Lusaka and the baby died minutes later. All nurses, with the exception of senior managers, are demanding a 25% wage increase – the government has offered 15% – and an increase in uniform, night duty and housing allowances that have not been changed for six years.

“Firing is not the answer – it is failing leaders that should fired

The BBC’s Musonda Chibamba in Lusaka says health services in the country are heavily dependent on nurses. At the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, for example, the out-patients department is being manned by student nurses.

Our reporter says the nurses defied expectations when they continued their strike on Monday. Instead, a large crowd of the nurses gathered on the lawns of the UTH where unarmed policemen were present, she says. The nurses privately expressed their disappointment at what they called government failure to meet them half-way.

They have also been angered by an assertion by government spokesman Ronnie Shikapwasha that once dismissed, they would be replaced by nurses from neighbouring Zimbabwe, our correspondent says.



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