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Ambulance drivers demand outstanding night-shift allowance

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INSET: Retired ambulance driver, Moleele

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has defied a court order made in February directing it to pay seven Tonota ambulance drivers a combined total of P305, 213.65 in outstanding night shift allowances.

The seven took the matter to court demanding to be paid their dues as per a 2012 savingram advising that former industrial employees who were re-employed following industrial action qualify for Night Duty Allowance.

However, Tonota and Emergency Medical Services ambulance drivers in greater Francistown have not been paid since November 2013.

Justice Christian Diwanga granted the applicants a default judgement on 6th February, calculating from November 2013 to March 2016, and ordered the Ministry to pay the applicants through the registrar’s office within 30 days.

It has been seven months since the deadline elapsed and the MoH are yet to pay.

Meanwhile the drivers, some of whom have since retired, walk around with a piece of paper stating the amount they are owed by their employer.

The Voice has learnt that five of the drivers, allegedly viewed by the ministry as ‘trouble makers’, have since been transferred to other clinics while two have retired.

One of the transferred drivers told The Voice that they had a meeting with MoH officials early this year, where they were promised their payments before Independence Day.

“We got the shock of our lives when the Principal Officer informed us that they have done their own calculations and have a different figure from the one in the court order,” narrated the unhappy driver, on condition of anonymity.

“This is strange because these people have never shown interest in this matter. They did not show up at the labour office and never attended a single court session. Now what calculations are they talking about?” fumed the aggrieved driver.

The Voice contacted the District Health Management Team (DHMT) Coordinator Dr Gobezieworku Solomon who absolved his team of any wrongdoing.

“We submitted the report to headquarters a long time ago. It’s no longer a DHMT issue, it’s in the hands of the Ministry,” he said.

Dr Solomon revealed that they made their own calculations and submitted the report to the head office.

“The court did not know the right calculations, so we gave the right figure to the ministry,” he argued.

The Ministry’s dilly dallying did not go down well with the now retired Lekopanye Moleele, 61, who started driving the Tonota Clinic ambulance 29 years ago.

“I was appointed an ambulance driver in October 14th 1988, and my employer has chosen to treat me like a dog instead of letting me retire honourably,” charged Moleele.

The outspoken Moleele, who now operates a taxi in Tonota, said he believes officials from DHMT are the ones stalling progress in this matter.

“They want to do fresh calculations, I wonder who’s complaining about the figure given by the Industrial court. They should have appealed and raised these concerns in court.

“All we want is our money and for the Ministry to comply with the court order,” concluded Moleele with real conviction.

The Voice first reported on the issue of night shift allowance in 2014, when a letter authored by Tuelo Moloko (OP) stated that night allowance for ambulance drivers was being scrapped and replaced by shift allowance instead.

Former DHMT Coordinator DR Ayele wrote a letter to Head of Corporate Services in 2015, arguing that night duty allowance was stopped without enough justification, which could cause disparity in the service delivery.

A few months after this inquiry, Ayele was transferred to Tutume.

The Voice sent a questionnaire to MoH, which had not been responded to at the time of going to print.