KOCHI: More than 100 nurses have been on strike for 175 days outside the KVM hospital in Cherthala, Alappuzha, Kerala. They are demanding that they be provided minimum wages that they were promised in 2013. The nursing community often described as angels are not often treated fairly by the hospital managements in Kerala.
The nurses have also complained that the hospital has not gone by the labour rules in existence in Kerala and the staffs are often made to work for more than 15 hours. They also said that they do not get ESI or PF benefits although the other hospitals in Kerala provide these to their staff. The events took a nasty turn on Sunday when the police lathi-charged the protesting nurses after they tried to block the National Highway in front of the hospital. Five nurses were injured in the incident.
The United Nurses Association has called for a state-wide strike on Thursday following the incident. Nurses including UNA state Secretary SujanapalAchuthan have gone on a hunger strike for the last four days. UNA state president Jasmine Shah was among those arrestedfollowing the incident. The nurses have demanded that two of their colleagues who were dismissed without cause should be reinstated. A discussion was convened by the State Labour Minister T. P. Ramakrishnan last Thursday, but the hospital management did not accept the demands of the nurses on strike. The government has offered to hold another discussion but the dates are yet to be fixed.
The hospital had earlier closed in October due to the protest of nurses demanding fair pay for their services. It was later reopened with the appointment of new staff. The hospital had at that time made a claim that the strike was planned to destroy the hospital and its reputation. The UNA state committee has taken up the protest and the strike has been extended from 12 hours to 24 hours.
Nurses from across the state are observing the day as Black day stating that most of the hospital managements have gone back on their promises to pay the nurses minimum wages agreed upon after discussions in the presence of government authorities. Nurses were seen wearing black badges in hospitals throughout the state. Similar strikes took place earlier in hospitals like Bharat Hospital which is situated right in the heart of the Kottayam town in Kerala.
UNA state vice-president,Siby Mukesh told The South Indian Post that the government had made an order fixing the minimum wage at 14,000. It was this order that the hospital flouted ever since. The work load for morning shift had been fixed at 6 hours, and night shift at 12 hours. However at KVM hospital the day shift extends to 8 hours and night shift to 16 hours.
The hospital also had the illegal practice of appointing even experienced nurses as trainees. Mr Mukesh also said that ministers P Thilothaman and Thomas Isaac had intervened on behalf of the nurses when the strike had reached 60 days. However the hospital management did not budge from their obstinate stand. He also added that the UNA had successfully raised the salary to the minimum wages at Bharat Hospital, Thirunakara.
After state-wide protests last year the minimum wage had been raised to 20,000. However the government has not yet made it an order which would make it mandatory for hospital managements to pay the amount. The plight of the nurses has improved leaps and bounds in the last few years mainly due to the efforts of United Nurses Association.
Image Credits: UNA Facebook Account