Kerala nurses refuse to budge, bent on strike

Nurses under the banner of United Nurses Association staging dharna in front of the Secretariat on Friday, demanding minimum wages.   | Photo Credit: C_RATHEESH KUMAR

The government has made no conciliatory moves to placate the nurses and to end the public health crisis that could be precipitated when the nursing community goes into indefinite strike from Monday.

The High Court’s pronouncement that the government should use Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to dissuade the nurses from going on strike has not shaken the resolve of nurses.

Both INA and UNA office-bearers said the government could arrest the nurses and fill the jails but they would not back down.

“The IRC meeting on July 10 discussed only the wage revision of other hospital employees. As a category of employees with clinical skills, nurses deserved a higher pay scale,” Mohammed Shihab, the general secretary of Indian Nurses’ Association, said.

Even when the private health sector grew as the biggest industry in Kerala, no government had paid attention to the pay and service conditions of nurses.

“The nurses formed independent unions because the trade unions representing hospital employees were not protecting our interests, which is one reason why the government is not interested in settling our strike,” he said

The pitiable pay and service conditions of nurses in private hospitals grabbed public attention in 2011-12 during the first major strikes they organised.

The recommendations of the Balaraman Commission thus appointed by the government to decide fair wages for nurses were never implemented. Instead, an IRC was appointed to fix minimum wages for nurses and other hospital staff.

Suggested wages

Minimum wages were declared for private sector nurses for the first time in May 2013, when their salary were fixed at ₹12,000-13,500. But in November last, the Supreme Court, when hearing a PIL filed by Indian Professional Nurses’ Association, directed the Health Ministry to set up a committee to fix the minimum wages and service conditions of nurses in the private sector.

Both INA and United Nurses’ Association have been fighting to secure the nursing community the wages thus prescribed by the SC-appointed Jagdish Prasad Committee, which recommended a minimum basic pay of ₹20,000 for nurses even in hospitals with less than 50 beds

“As a labour force which has been exploited and under-paid for long, we will not settle for anything less than what the SC-appointed committee has recommended,” UNA vice president, Sibi Mukesh, said.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 2:37:46 AM |

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