Nurses, who received lavish praise for their role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, are being forced to take to the streets to claim their rights in Tamil Nadu. Nurses from the Tamil Nadu Government Nurses Association and the Tamil Nadu MRB Nurses Welfare Association held protests while pressing for their charter of demands on January 29.
The government nurses are demanding wages on par with what nurses working for the Union Government are paid while MRB nurses have been awaiting being made permanent staff members. The nurses’ unions have accused the government of violating its promise of meeting their demands for the past several years. The government, instead of lending its ear, has been unmindful of the long pending demands of the nurses.
GOVERNMENT OFFERS APPOINTMENT FOR 1,500 NURSES AFTER PROTEST
The protest by the nurses recruited through the medical recruitment board (MRB) has resulted in the government assuring the appointment of 1,500 nurses immediately. Around 17,000 nurses who have been appointed since 2015, including those recruited during the pandemic, are working on low wages.
Speaking to NewsClick, Aswini Grace, state joint secretary of the MRB Nurses Welfare Association said, “We were promised permanent jobs within two years after being appointed. However, only 2,000 nurses were regularised out of 17,000 nurses. Despite our sincere efforts during the pandemic and otherwise, we have been denied justice.”.
The government has not kept its word and regularised the nurses, forcing them to hold state-wide protests. The nurses are working at a Rs 14,000 consolidated monthly wage since their appointment, without any social security and welfare measures.
“We are not even entitled to the basic holidays like other health department workers. Taking leave on medical grounds, even for a single day, will end up costing us wages,” added Aswini.
The protest by the nurses were withdrawn keeping COVID-19 in mind after the government assured their appointment in a phased manner. However, the union has resolved to fight till they get their rightful benefits and are given permanent jobs.
PAY COMPENSATION AND ON-PAR WAGES
The permanent nurses also held separate protests across the state demanding the government fulfill their long-pending demands. The nurses sported black badges and held dharnas in medical colleges and government hospitals.
S. Kaliammal, state treasurer of the Tamil Nadu Government Nurses’ Association said, “We have been at the front-lines in the fight against the pandemic, but the government has been least bothered about our plight. Our wages are still very low compared to Union Government wages and we are denied many allowances paid to doctors. The promotion policies for the nurses should be re-framed to be on par with the policies of the Centre.”
The association also alleged that the nurses are being overworked since there has not been sufficient appointment of nurses in medical colleges, government hospitals and primary health centres. The government has been claiming success in the increasing number of government medical colleges in the state, but the number of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff have not increased on par, the unions alleged.
“We have too much work to do since there a large number of vacancies in many hospitals in the state. We have been demanding for the appointment of staff as per the ratio recommended by the Nursing Council. But the government has not paid heed to our demands, forcing us to protest,” added Kaliammal.
'NO COMPENSATION PAID FOR DECEASED NURSES'
The state government announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakhs to workers who had lost their lives in the fight against the pandemic. But, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government has been accused of failing to keep its promise.
“Around 10 nurses have sacrificed their lives to COVID-19 while fighting it. However, their sacrifice has not moved the government to pay compensation. This is cruel on their part. We have demanded that the government keeps its word,” said Kaliammal.