KASARGOD: Two months after withdrawing their strike for salary hike, the nurses in Kerala are planning to relaunch their protest as the hospital managements have refused to implement the minimum wage of Rs 20,000 per month.“The hospitals have not only refused to implement the unanimously accepted salary package, but also initiated vindictive action against the nurses who participated in the protest,” said Libin Thomas, state president of the Indian Nurses’ Association. The services of around 50 nurses in Kannur and Kasargod districts were terminated by the managements in the past two months, despite Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan specifically asking them not to target the protesters, he said.
After protesting for nearly two months, the nurses in private hospitals called off their strike on July 20, as the managements accepted the government suggestion to provide a minimum pay of `20,000 to nurses in hospitals with less than 50 beds.Around one lakh nurses affiliated to the Indian Nurses’ Association and the United Nurses Association had participated in the protest. “The hospitals are denying the hike despite implementing a steep hike hospital charges and room rent citing the burden caused by the hike in nurses’ salaries,” said Thomas.
Expert panel’s proposals
On July 20, the government had formed a expert committee to fix the salary of nurses serving in bigger hospitals. The committee headed by the labour commissioner, and secretaries of the departments of Health, Labour and Law as members recommended a minimum salary of `24,000 per month for nurses in hospitals with 50 to 100 beds; `29,000 for hospitals with 100 to 200 beds; and `32,000 for hospitals with more than 200 beds.
The recommendations were placed before the minimum wages committee on September 20. “The two nurses associations accepted the recommendations, but the hospital managements said they will approach the court if the government implemented the proposals,” said Thomas, a member of the committee.
The MWC is headed by the labour commissioner and has 13 members from labour unions and 13 representatives from hospital managements.
“We are facing resistance even from the established trade unions like the CITU,” said Thomas.
The trade unions representing non-professionals in hospitals, said they will also demand a pay revision if nurses were given a hike. “We strongly suspect they are hand in glove with the management. Else there was no need to peg their demands with ours,” Thomas said.The trade unions are planning to present their demands in the meeting scheduled to be held on Thursday. The nurses said if the government failed to take a decision on their salaries, they will be forced to go on strike again.
But the associations fear another round of protest would see fewer participation because of retribution from the managements. “Here the nurses are threatened with memos almost every day. They are asked to resign from the associations. Those who do not budge are fired,” said Ajeesh Chacko, Kasargod district president of Indian Nurses Association.
Libin Thomas said the nurses are planning to stage a sit-in in front of the Thozhil Bhavan on Thursday, when the statutory minimum wages committee (MWC) meets at the Labour Commissioner’s office. “We are expecting the government to take a decision on the wages on Thursday. An amicable solution now looks remote,” he said.