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Zim Health Workers, Teachers Strike

FILE: Nurses down tools amid economic crisis in Zimbabwe and rising cases of COVID-19. Taken 6.18.2022

Zimbabwean health workers and teachers went on strike on Monday after rejecting a 100% wage hike offer last week, pressing their demand for payment in U.S. dollars as the local currency slumps.

Doctors, nurses and teachers across Zimbabwe went on strike Monday, as the country's latest financial crisis has left their salaries almost worthless.

Nurses earn 18,000 Zimbabwe dollars per month, which is now worth only about US$55 at the official exchange rate.

Teachers do slightly better, at about $75 a month.

Government workers rejected the below-inflation 100% wage hike offer on Friday.

"Our health services board, which is our employer, and the Ministry of Health have totally refused to talk to the health workers," said Zimbabwe Nurses Association head, Enock Dongo.

"The salaries that the health workers received last week were pathetic," Enock Dongo, head of the Zimbabwe Nurses' Association, told Reuters, adding that the majority were paid 20,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($53) a month.

He said health professionals across the country had decided to strike until they were paid US$540 a month, the pay they used to receive in 2018 before the local currency slumped.

A government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Teachers on Monday also called a five-day strike, according to a statement from the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe.

"We cannot continue to be an embarrassment in our community as a result of the poverty that the government believes should remain as part of our working lives," the statement said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from longtime leader Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has struggled to end an economic crisis that started under his predecessor.

Runaway inflation in Zimbabwe topped 131 percent in May, reviving memories of hyperinflation seen more than a decade ago. Prices ran so out of control that the central bank in 2008 had issued 100-trillion-dollar note, which has now become a collectors' item.

The government then ditched the local currency and adopted the US dollar and the South African rand as legal tender.

But in 2019 the government reintroduced the Zimbabwean dollar, which is already rapidly declining in value.

This article contains information sourced from both Reuters and Agence France -Presse