KOTTAYAM: Krishnapriya, a 23-year-old nurse, looked frail and vulnerable on the fifth day of her hunger strike. When her health deteriorated alarmingly by Tuesday night, she was hospitalised and Jipsy Sandeep, another nurse, took over. Jipsy is the third nurse participating in the relay hunger strike, as part of the indefinite protests, launched by 58 nurses at Bharath Hospital, Kottayam.
With a financial burden of nearly Rs 5 lakh as education loan, Krishnapriya is fighting hard to secure her job. Her case is not isolated.
While the nurses’ strike in Bharath Hospital continued into its 80th day on Wednesday, many of the nurses, who are protesting for better work atmosphere and labour conditions, are facing a critical situation after they lost their job for participating in protests.
S Mayamol, K S Sariga and many others have bank loans to be repaid, while some others have to look after their family. Mayamol is likely to lose an opportunity to go abroad because she participated in the strike. Yet they are determined in their fight for justice.
It all commenced with a flash strike launched by nurses on July 13, raising various demands, including better work atmosphere, fair salary and mannerly behaviour from the management. Though their strike ended within three days following the management agreeing to a settlement, the nurses had to face its consequences, with management refusing to renew the job contract of nine nurses who were at the forefront of the protests. The nurses were left with no option than to commence the second phase of protests on August 7.
However, the management stood firm on its decision. They are also refusing to take back 49 nurses who are on an indefinite protest. “We are fighting for our rights,” said Sruthi S Kumar, Bharath Hospital unit secretary of United Nurses Association (UNA) which is spearheading the protests. “We want our jobs back with all rights upheld by the Labour Department. The management told a mediation panel they are ready to pay a cumulative amount of Rs 40 lakh as compensation to us and they would not allow us to rejoin work. We will never accept such a decision.”
The nurses knocked on the doors of district and labour offices, and submitted petitions to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, but in vain. The deadlock could not be resolved even after the intervention of MLA Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, MP Jose K Mani, District Collector B S Thirumeni and even the Kerala High Court’s mediation panel.
However, the hospital management dismissed the reports of offering cumulative compensation. “We have not terminated any nurse from our hospital, but didn’t renew the job contract of five nurses whose performance was not up to the mark in internal assessment,” said Dr Vinod Viswanathan, managing director of the Hospital. “We took the decision as per labour rules. However, a minor section of nurses launched a strike and abstained from duty. We have lost faith in these nurses and can’t admit their services any longer. We are ready to pay their salary without work till their job contract ends.”
He alleged certain organisations hijacked the protest and their agendas could not be taken for granted.
Taking up arms
As many as 58 nurses have launched indefinite protests at Bharath Hospital, Kottayam
The nurses are protesting for better work atmosphere and labour conditions
This is the second phase of the nurses’ protests. The first phase was a flash strike on July 13 which conluded in three days.