MASERU — The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has reversed its decision to fire nurses and their assistants who went on strike last Monday protesting against poor working conditions and meagre salaries.
Last Thursday the principal secretary in the health ministry Kararabo Mokobocho-Mohlakoana informed the striking Queen Elizabeth II Hospital health workers through a memo that they had been fired.
She said the nurses had disobeyed her instructions to go back to work.
“This notice serves to inform you that you are dismissed with immediate effect,” said the Mokobocho-Mohlakoana’s memo to the nurses dated May 6.
“You are therefore instructed to leave the premises of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital immediately upon receipt of this memo,” she said.
The memo to dismiss the nurses was copied to the attorney general, government secretary and the public service.
The nurses, who had however insisted on continuing the strike, told Mokobocho-Mohlakoana that she had no right to fire them.
They said they could not be dismissed from work on the basis of a memo that had not been addressed to individual nurses.
Mokobocho-Mohlakoana however made a U-turn on May 10 and wrote individual letters to the health workers.
Just over 80 health workers received the letter.
“Several meetings have ensued whereat the principal secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare including the honourable ministers of public service and of health engaged with you despite the illegal strike.
“I have also notified you since Tuesday the 4th May, 2010 to return to work, but you have not taken heed of the warnings.
“You are directed to report for duty with immediate effect as per allocation, if not show cause by the 10th May, 2010 why you cannot be dismissed,” Mokobocho-Mohlakoana wrote in the letters.
The nurses and their assistants resumed work as soon as they received the letters.
Nurses who spoke to the Lesotho Times said they had only returned to work because they were afraid that they would be fired.
They however said Mokobocho-Mohlakoana had not promised to look into their grievances.
The situation, they said, was still the same as it was before they went on strike.
“We have gone back to work because we were afraid we could lose our jobs. We need the money to provide for our families.
“But the hospital is still in its worst state,” a nurse at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital said.
When this paper called Mokobocho-Mohlakoana’s office for a comment she was said to be in a meeting.
The spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Tumisang Mokoai directed questions to a human resource officer in the ministry who refused to answer questions.