- Burundian Doctors and nurses have resumed duties today after an agreement between their trade unions and the government. Health workers had embarked on strike on 24 November protesting the non-implementation of agreements signed in 2004 to upgrade standards of health works in the country.
The Chief mediator for the talks, former president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya said government and workers have agreed to prioritise patients, a move criticised by locals and rights organisations on criterion of selection for the patients.
He said both parties reached a major compromise in acknowledging that Burundian population should be taken care while parties continue negotiating their grievances.
If the 2004 agreement could be implemented, it will significantly improve their living conditions, especially of the nurses who had complained bitterly about their poor wages, reports have revealed.
The mediator said talks on salary increases were ongoing and called for contributions to be presented to the negotiating team. However, on 30 November, the government of Burundi had told the country's striking doctors and nurses not to expect any salary increase soon as the budget planning was at an advanced stage.
According to a joint communiqué issued today, 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.
According to Mr Ntibantunganya, all concerned parties have shown commitment to the talks, assuring a successful deliberation. "We are going to come up with an agenda so the next step of negotiations after the talks can start," Mr Ntibantunganya said.
Local reports said though services in all public hospitals and health centres in the capital, Bujumbura are back to normal, there were few patients in the centres as the decision was taken late Tuesday night.
The government has been saying the workers' claims would only be honoured after a total cancellation of Burundi's debt, but has now promised to include their claims in a budget revision scheduled for June 2009.
The current strike which is the third held in the health sector since the beginning of the year has affected health services in the East African nation, where doctors and nurses are believed to be generally poorly paid.
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