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S. Sudan health workers threaten strike action over allowances

September 1, 2014 (JUBA) – Members of the health workers’ union in South Sudan have threatened a strike over allowances and long working hours, unless government intervenes with immediate effect.

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South Sudan’s health ministers have launched a seven-year strategic plan aimed at reducing malaria and improving health outcomes in the country (ST)

Jacob Lemi, who heads the workers’ union, told reporters Monday that the government had until the end of this week to respond to a number of issues raised in a memo submitted to the latter.

Lemi said they would return today to work but on the condition that they would be working for eight hours and a day and five days in a week from Monday to Friday until the government agrees on working hours, payment, transport, shift arrangements and overtime.

He further explained that they have decided to return to work because they would not like the public to be under an illusion that health workers do not care about patients.

“We want the conditions of the health workers, medical doctors, nurses, midwives and all other medical categories to be improved in Wau, Malakal and in all states,” said Lemi.

“Health workers have right to public holidays, leave and official working hours which start from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and from Monday to Friday. We should be working for eight hours a day and five days a week,” he stressed.

Sisto Lomicu Bashir, a representative of nurses at Juba teaching hospital, said they gave government a seven-day ultimatum to pay their dues or face the likely consequences of their planned strike.

The warning comes hardly a week after more than 200 nurses, doctors and support staff at Juba teaching hospital staged a one-day strike in protest against government’s failure to pay their dues.

“After we raised the alarm, the minister of health together with the undersecretary and the minister in the office of the president came and said they have heard our complaint. They said this issue must be resolved but until now, we not are seeing anything apart from the assurances. There is no indication of movement,” Nafisa Ladu Modi, the head of hospital staff committee separately told reporters on Monday.

She said workers also demanded clarification from the public service ministry on issues relating to their working hours as well as a review of their payments.

South Sudan’s health budget is reportedly still 5% below the Abuja declaration, which requires that African countries allocate at least 15% of their annual budgets to the health sector.

(ST)