Implementation of the National Health Insurance scheme must be shifted to a later date because it still remains unclear how workers will benefit, says Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union (CSAWUZ) president Davies Chiyobe.

NHIMA director-general James Kapesa recently announced that one per cent deduction from workers’ salary towards the National Health Insurance Scheme would commence this month, but that people would only start accessing health services under the scheme in March, 2020.

But in an interview, Chiyobe said workers were still not ready for the implementation process, citing the deteriorating economy and lack of consultation.

“The workers, so far as the matter stands now, are not ready! They are not ready in the sense that the economy is biting! What we got is a four per cent (salary increment). So, to get a one per cent because it’s law, to an extent amounts to abuse of law. There must be an engagement saying: ‘this is what is going to happen.’ Laws are there, but those laws should be for the betterment of the people they are targeted to,” Chiyobe said.

“We want it to be deferred. What is the rush? So, the rush is now very clear that what they are interested in is wanting to pay themselves salaries as an Authority! You can’t get people’s money and you start paying yourselves salaries, when you are not rendering the service for that money you have gotten for. Are they going to render the service when they get the money? The answer is no! But are they not going to be paying themselves salaries? The answer is yes.”

He said it was disappointing that government had decided to press ahead with the controversial health insurance scheme despite several unresolved items.

“Through the labour movement, they (workers) have put across their feelings and they are saying the economy is biting, and the percentage (increment) they got was very low. Secondly, with the NHI, there are a lot of issues, which remains unresolved” the budget itself if you were to check through our collective agreement is very clear that we do not agree on the one per cent. Maybe other unions will accept, but the likes of ZUNO (Zambia Union of Nurses Organization), Judicial Allied Workers Union of Zambia (JAWUZ), we have not agreed! So, it becomes a pending issue, which remains unresolved,” he added.

Chiyobe called for patience in implementing the scheme so that all loopholes were sorted out.

“The issue of deducting people’s money…if we are alert as Zambians to our rights, especially on individual levels, if my money is being deducted and I can’t access the facility where that money is going, I have the right to sue! There are a lot of things, which go unresolved and the the Authority should take stock. They should not just be interested so that they get people’s money so that they start paying themselves salaries,” Chiyobe stressed.

“They should be patient so that all these matters are resolved. What about if they move like that and we go to court and we stop them, what would they have achieved? Meetings have been called so that we discuss these things, but they have been pushing. Is their push to render a service or get money in their pockets?”

He wondered why government was in a hurry to deduct from people’s salaries when services would only be available next year.

“You get someone’s money now and you go and work and start rendering a service in March? Have you ever seen such a scenario happening? It has never! So, as labour movements, we are simply saying let that scheme wait; we are not in opposition of it, we are the people who started it. But it should not be taken like we are against it, we are not against it; we are against the implementation,” explained Chiyobe.

“Look at the push, the people you want to give a service are refusing, ‘don’t get our money’ but you, you want to say ‘yes, we need the service.’ Now, the people you want to give the service are refusing. It is crystal clear that what you are interested is not to render a service, but what you are interested in is to get money and pay yourselves salaries. Let them be clear because it is foreseen that what they’re interested in is money to pay themselves salaries.”