Demanding a hike in salaries, incentives and other employment benefits apart from better working conditions, more than 500 staff nurses of Manipal Hospital here went on a snap strike on Tuesday.

They withdrew the strike in the evening and gave a week's deadline to the hospital management to meet their demands. “If our demands are not met by January 15, we will launch an indefinite protest from January 16,” said M.K. Thomas, president of Indian Nurses Welfare Association, who is leading the strike. Although the strike did not affect the functioning of the hospital as nearly 250 nurses, who were on the first shift continued work, tension prevailed in the hospital vicinity with the protesting staff staging a demonstration in front of the hospital's emergency unit.

Overtime wages

Shouting slogans against the management, the protesters alleged that they were deprived of employment benefits such as overtime wages. “Although we are supposed to work for eight hours in a single shift, we invariably end up working for more than 12 hours. This we are forced to work even without overtime wages,” one of the staff nurses said.

C.G. Muthanna, vice-president (operations), Manipal Hospital, said the nurses had gone on strike all of a sudden without giving any notice. “They had given us a letter on December 30 listing nine demands, including salary hike. They had said in the letter that they will go on strike from January 16 if their demands were not met. Although we have considered most of their demands, they started their strike six days earlier. This is illegal,” he said.

Mr. Muthanna said that a decision on salary hike was part of the budgeting process and could be taken only in April.

“We are already paying them higher wages that paid by other corporate hospitals. If they are adamant on that demand and take that as an excuse to go on strike again, we will have to make alternative arrangements,” he added.