The Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) has called on government to withdraw the National Health Insurance scheme because it is an added cost to overburdened workers in the country.

And Chibanda has disclosed that the Federation has declined to meet Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya because any meeting now will not yield fruit because the Statutory Instrument has already been signed.

Addressing journalists on the controversial National Health Insurance scheme in Lusaka, ZFE executive director Harrington Chibanda urged government to abandon the scheme because of its effects on escalating costs on employers.

He argued that the scheme was not a “do or die” affair as private sector employers had been using private healthcare schemes since time immemorial.

“Surely, can we not understand the current economic hardships that Zambians are going through and let certain issues, such as the one that the Minister (Dr Chilufya) is spearheading be put on a halt? I mean, we have all had medical services from time immemorial, and in fact, for us in the private sector, our members already have schemes for our employees. So, it is not like a do or die issue, no! The deduction from the employees just increases the hardships! This is why we are calling on government in totality that we should not leave this matter alone to Minister of Health; let them address it head on and hear the concerns that people have raised on this matter. Whether we are going to comply or we are not going to comply, I mean complying will not mean that we are happy about it! It may be complied to because it is law and employers would not want to be prosecuted, but it is just not a fair law,” Chibanda complained.

“So, that’s why in our speech, we are asking government as a whole to halt it because it is clear that the economy is not doing well, people are being over-stretched! We have load shedding right now and it’s now in public domain that Zesco is going to increase the tariffs by a certain percentage, so for you to afford that additional payment on your electricity bill, it is going to come from your salary, it’s the same salary where the Minister wants to get one per cent.”

And he said it was meaningless for them to go ahead and meet the Minister when the consultation would not yield any fruit.

“Our engagement with the Ministry of Health was through correspondences; we wrote to his (Dr Chilufya) office through the tripartite consultative labour council. We did write to the Minister, jointly with the ZCTU, and raised serious concerns. Unfortunately, the Minister chose not to respond to our concerns, but after he signed the Statutory Instrument, which is proposing the one per cent payroll basic pay. On 19 September, we then got an invitation last week to then go and meet the Minister, yes, he did indicate that his doors are open to engage us, but you see, the question is: if he did not listen to our concerns before passing the Statutory Instrument Number 63, which has effectively created an obligation on the employers and employees to pay one per cent of basic pay, if we met him, what are we going to yield?” wondered Chibanda.

“So, we felt that the Minister should have met us before operationalizing the Act because what we needed was to yield results from our discussions with him, but after he has passed the SI, which has become law, that since it was signed on 19th September, what it means is that, this month of October, by 10th employers, when you guys will be getting your salaries, your employers should deduct a 1 per cent from your salaries! So, according to him, it’s a done deal. So, if we went to meet him, what are we going to discuss? So, we actually declined to see the Minister.”