Karnataka

Steep reduction in salary leaves State’s dialysis workers upset

Karnataka , Mangaluru : 28/04/2017 : The working of the Dialysis centre of the Wenlock Hospital has affected following scarcity of water. PHOTO : H S MANJUNATH

Karnataka , Mangaluru : 28/04/2017 : The working of the Dialysis centre of the Wenlock Hospital has affected following scarcity of water. PHOTO : H S MANJUNATH

Trouble could be brewing in the State-sponsored dialysis programme as a steep reduction in salary, in some cases by about 40%, for those working in dialysis units has left about 680 employees fuming even as they fear job cuts. So far, the discontentment has not spilled over to work as the dialysis centres continue to offer the crucial services while the employees have approached the Labour Department for redressal.

These employees, including dialysis technicians, nurses and ‘D’ group employees, have been manning 122 dialysis units since March 2017 when the scheme was awarded to BRS Health & Research Institute to manage. While the problem for the employees started after BRS defaulted on payment of salaries for months of June and July and meanwhile intimated the State Government that it would no longer be able to continue with the services, the company also defaulted on payment towards provident fund and ESI.

Having managed the dialysis scheme since August 2021, the Health Department on January 7 this year handed over the scheme to Kolkata-based ESKAG Sanjeevini Pvt. Ltd. to continue with the services till March 31, 2022 as a temporary arrangement. A fresh long-term tender to continue the scheme beyond March 2022 is expected to be floated shortly as the original five-year contract given in 2017 comes to an end.

In the past few weeks, the employees have been receiving calls from the new agency, some even getting offer letters, with far less salaries than what the BRS had been paying them. Health Department officials said while BRS handled 24 districts, ESKAG Sanjeevini had overseen activities in seven districts. “The new agency is sending offer letters with salaries far less than what we were getting. I was getting a consolidated salary of close to ₹23,000, which has now been brought down to about ₹13,000 a month. We do not know if we need to accept it or not.,” an employee on condition of anonymity told The Hindu . “Even when the Government took over, salary had been slashed citing the National Health Mission norms. We will not agree to such steep cuts,” another employee said, adding that payment of salaries had been erratic in the past few months.

In November, after confusion arose over payments in some districts, the Government clarified that the NHM fixed salaries could be provided till March 2022.

Health Commissioner D. Randeep acknowledged that the BRS had fixed higher salaries in some places, but maintained that the salary structure had not been uniform across. “Paying higher salary is beyond our scope. As long as minimum wages is not violated it cannot be an issue. There is no need for negotiation on salary now since a fresh tender is being floated.” Incidentally, both NHM objective statement and Memorandum of Understanding signed between State Government and BRS had payment of minimum wages as the clause. “I do not know why BRS paid a higher amount,” Mr. Randeep said.

On the default in payment of salaries, PF and ESI, he said that the Government is yet to clear the dues of BRS, and that the first priority will be to clear the dues of employees before the dues of BRS is cleared.

Allaying fears of job cuts, Mr. Randeep said: “We have asked the new agency not to disturb workers. It is there only to oversee the activities and make payments on time.”

Meanwhile, the employees, who have formed a union affiliated to All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), have approached Labour Department for help. “In times of pandemic, the Government should take care of the economic well-being, especially since they are frontline workers. It is illegal and unfair to reduce their wages. We will take a legal recourse,” said Nithin M.S., AITUC Secretary, Bengaluru.


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Printable version | May 19, 2022 7:02:13 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/steep-reduction-in-salary-leaves-states-dialysis-workers-upset/article38288380.ece