‘They said we could get back to work if strike was withdrawn’

The hopes of 409 stipendiary nurses were shattered on Monday when the Governing Council of the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) decided against permitting them to resume work.

Although the Governing Council, headed by Medical Education Minister S.A. Ramdas met on Saturday, the decision was conveyed to the nurses on Monday. Upset, the nurses have now approached the Labour Commissioner for his help.

The nurses had been working on contract for the last five years in the four BMCRI hospitals (Bowring and Lady Curzon, Victoria, Vani Vilas and Minto). Their contract was being renewed once in six months.

Demanding regularisation of services and protesting against the Medical Education Department’s decision to recruit 600 permanent nurses, they had started an indefinite strike from January 9.

The strike was withdrawn on January 30 after a reconciliation meeting with BMCRI Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ravi Kumar through the Labour Department.

Patient services in the four BMCRI hospitals was hit owing to the strike and functioning of operation theatres were also affected.

‘How can they do this?’

“We had withdrawn our 22-day strike after officials from the Labour Department intervened and worked out a reconciliation between us and the BMCRI authorities. The CAO of BMCRI, who had come for the meeting with the Labour Department, had assured us that we would be allowed to resume work from February 4 if the strike was withdrawn unconditionally,” said B. Manjunath, president of the BMCRI Stipendiary Staff Nurses’ Welfare Association.

“Although we have been waiting on the premises of BMCRI from January 30 to get the reporting orders, the officials asked us to wait as the government had to take a decision. Today, they say we cannot be taken back as we have stayed away from work for a month. How can they suddenly tell 409 nurses that they do not require our services any longer?” said Asha Rani, who had been working in Vani Vilas for the last four years.

S. Balan, trade union activist, termed the decision illegal.

“Asking 409 nurses not to continue work without even a notice is illegal,” he said.

O.S. Siddappa, Dean and Director of the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, said the nurses had violated the terms and conditions of the bond that they had signed during appointment in more ways than one.

“Moreover, they have abstained from work for more than a month. Hence their contract gets cancelled automatically. I have followed the Governing Council’s orders,” he said.

He said that alternative arrangements were being made to bring in additional nurses. Meanwhile, regular nurses of Vani Vilas and Victoria met the dean and appealed for more hands.

“The process of appointing new nurses has started and 600 nurses would be posted in the hospitals by April. We have received more than 13,000 applications and almost all the protesting nurses have applied. We are planning to give them grace marks in consideration of their contract service,” he added.