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Striking health staff resume work

Striking health workers outside the Prince Regent Charles Hospital in Bujumbura. Unions called a strike to pressure the government to implement agreements reached on salary levels and working conditions. November 2008
(Barnabe Ndayikeza/IRIN)

Burundian health workers who have been on strike since 24 November have resumed work after an agreement between their trade unions and the government.

Former president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, who mediated in the talks, said both parties had agreed to prioritise patients.

The workers, including clinical officers and nurses, went on strike to protest against poor pay and working conditions.

"The major compromise is that negotiating parties agreed that the Burundian population should be taken care of," Ntibantunganya said.

He said talks on salary increases were ongoing and called for contributions to be presented to the negotiating team.

"Every party is committed to negotiate," Ntibantunganya said, adding that he hoped the negotiations would not take long. "I am confident of the success of the talks as the parties appear to be committed to respect the rights of each citizen to medical care."

According to a joint communiqué issued on 17 December, the parties agreed "to end the talks in a month’s time and the special statutes relating to remuneration will also have to be signed [by] early January 2008.

"We are going to come up with an agenda so the next step of negotiations after the talks can start," Ntibantunganya said.

Services at all public hospitals and health centres in the capital, Bujumbura, are back to normal although the number of patients was not high on 17 December.

"Patients are not so many as they are not aware of the decision that was taken late Tuesday [16 December] night," a nurse at Prince Regent Charles Hospital, said, adding that "even physicians reported to work".

Patients welcomed the resumption of medical services.

"I am very happy, I had been spending so much money in private clinics," said a woman who recently gave birth at Prince Regent Charles Clinic.

''I am confident of the success of the talks as the parties appear to be committed to respect the rights of each citizen to medical care''

Nyandwi Mamera, who has been caring for his sick brother at Roi Khaled University Hospital, said: "I strongly believe the medical workers are going to follow up every patient more closely than [they did] during the strike when they reported to work as they pleased."

Talks between the trade unions and health and government officials stalled in November before Ntibantunganya and Jean-Marie Vianney Kavumbagu, former head of the Iteka human rights group, began mediating last week.

The government had been saying the workers' claims would only be honoured after a total cancellation of Burundi's debt, while the unions had been demanding their claims be backdated to January 2008. The government had promised to include their claims in a budget revision scheduled for June 2009.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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