Meghalaya Health Minister AL Hek has told the employees of Meghalaya GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) 108 ambulance service that the government is ready to terminate the contract with GVK and take over the emergency service, almost 45 days after the employees went on an indefinite strike.
More than 200 ambulance drivers and other trained respondents of the EMRI ambulance service have been on an indefinite strike under the banner of Meghalaya EMRI Workers’ Union (MEMRIWU), demanding that the government immediately terminate the contract with GVK EMRI, and take over the emergency services.
Talking to NewsClick, Roipar Kharraswai, president of the MEMRIWU said, “Conversations are still going on between the government and the workers. Even though no concrete decision has been taken yet, we finally have some hope. The GVK management, on the other hand, is also trying to reconcile with the workers. We had a meeting with the workers on Monday, November 11, but nothing came out of it. We will continue to stick to our demands.”
The employees had gone on a hunger strike on October 29, after the government failed to meet their demands or come up with a solution even after their strike had been going on for almost a month. The hunger strike was withdrawn on Saturday, November 9, after a large number of protesters fell sick and had to be hospitalised.
The Meghalaya government had given a pre-termination notice to the GVK EMRI in October, saying that the government will end the contract if the company failed to solve the issue within two months. The employees had vehemently opposed this, as the government had earlier done the same thing in July, without any result. Kharraswai had told NewsClick, “In July this year, we had threatened to agitate over non-fulfilment of our demands, but we had called it off after getting assurance that our demands will be fulfilled. Their deadline ended on September 23, but the management did not do anything. Giving them another 60 days to perform does not make any sense.”
The employees of the GVK EMRI 108 ambulance service have been raising their demands and issues like enhanced salary package, the shortage of manpower, the admission for leave, the rampant transfer and unusable condition of ambulances with the management for more than a year now, but the management has continued to ignore their problems.
“The minister said the government was willing to remove GVK EMRI, but it has to follow certain procedures,” Kharraswai said. He added that the government has not yet assured them that the employees will not lose their jobs. He added, “We feel that the state government should not throw us out even after removing GVK EMRI because we have dedicatedly served the state for 11 years and tried our best to help the people in need through our jobs.”
He said, “Though we have ended the hunger strike, we will not resume our duty until the government resolves the issue. We will intensify our agitation by adopting a different strategy, and continue to protest until our demands are met.”