Lucknow: Thousands of ambulance employees of 102 and 108 service went on indefinite strike across Uttar Pradesh on Monday in the wake of a change in the company that operates the advanced life support system (ALS) ambulances.
After the recent tender to run 250 ALS ambulances in UP was awarded by Ziqitza Healthcare Limited, ambulance staff were apprehending that many of them would lose their jobs. The key demands of the ambulance drivers included job security, end to contract system, inclusion of 102, 108 and ALS employees in the National Health Mission (NHM) service, Rs 50 lakh insurance for employees if they die of COVID-19 and overtime payment after eight hours of duty.
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The ambulance worker’s union, Jeevandayni Swasthya Vibhag, alleged that after the tender went to Ziqitza Healthcare Limited from GVK-Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI), the workers feared losing their jobs. However, Ziqitza officials have said they would give preference to experienced staff. The union has written a letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demanding that all ambulance workers be accommodated in the new company but there has been no response so far.
"The workers across the state went on strike to pressure the government to get all the old staff working on ALS ambulances deployed in the new firm without any riders. We will continue our strike till our demands are met. We will not allow ambulances to function anywhere," said Hanuman Pandey, president of the union that is leading the protest.
“Over 19,000 employees hired by GVK- EMRI, that is currently running 108 and 102 ambulance service in Uttar Pradesh, will be unemployed after the government has given the contract to a new company to run the service,” Pandey told NewsClick, adding that most of the employees have been working for the government since 2012.
“We risked our lives during the pandemic but were available 24*7 for the service. But in return, we are not being hired despite 10 years of experience,” he added.
Meanwhile, GVK EMRI has sacked 14 employees, including the state president of the ambulance association after protesters refused to join work. Along with this, the Yogi-Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has also warned of invoking Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on the striking employees. However, the employees are adamant and say they won’t join work until their demands are met.
"If any patient dies in the state due to negligence of ambulance workers, strict action will be taken against the officer and employee concerned," Adityanath said in a press meet, asking the health department, medical education department and home department to strictly follow this order.
After ambulance workers halted work, the health department in Lucknow deployed additional ambulances in the city. There are 4,720 ambulances in UP, including 2,270 being run under the 102 service, 2,200 ambulances under the 108 service and 250 ALS ambulances.
With a majority of ambulances not operating, chief medical officer Dr Manoj Agrawal said the department had deployed ambulances at all community health centres in rural areas. For urban health centres, the control room at CMO office is coordinating ambulances.