Lucknow: Hundreds of National Health Mission (NHM) contractual employees of the health department from across Uttar Pradesh went on an indefinite strike on Friday demanding ‘equal pay for equal work’ on the lines of the regular staff, health insurance benefits during COVID-19 and regularisation of jobs.
On the call of the Uttar Pradesh National Health Mission Contract Employees Union, the NHM contractual staff held a mass protest at the chief medical officer’s (CMO) office in Lucknow. All paramedical and managerial employees of NHM, including a nursing officer, pharmacy officer, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), lab technician, dental technician and other Class IV employees, raised the issue of pay discrimination.
“For the last 10 years, NHM employees in Uttar Pradesh are being paid less than the DC wage rate unlike their counterparts in other states. Despite several protests, our demand for a fair salary has not been met by the Centre or the director,” Union president Mayank Pratap Singh told Newsclick.
“Initially, we decided to hold a protest march for only two to three days. But we decided to go on an indefinite strike due to the official attitude. All services rendered by the NHM employees will remain suspended from 9 am to 3 pm daily until our pay is hiked,” Singh added.
NHM workers who couldn’t come to Lucknow are protesting outside the offices of CMOs in their respective districts, Singh said adding, “neither they will end their strike nor any lollipop offered by the government will work. We want regularisation of jobs and ‘equal pay for equal work’. If our demands are not met before the Assembly elections, we will teach the government a lesson. Furthermore, the vaccination drive will also be halted”.
Another union leader said that NHM employees have been working for “meagre” salaries for more than 12 years and demanding regularisation of jobs. The union leaders said that they want to bring to the public’s notice how the state government “left them to suffer” despite their diligence and performance during the pandemic.
Echoing a similar view, Premlata Pandey, president, ANM Sanvida Sangh, Uttar Pradesh, which raises the grievances of contractual ANM workers, said, “We have been working for more than 10 years without pay revision or benefits for working on COVID-19 duty. If any of us dies, the state government simply disowns us. A regular ANM worker is paid Rs 60,000 per month whereas a contractual worker gets Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000 for the same amount of work. Is this fair?”
ANM workers, along with other health workers across the state, had raised the issue of ‘equal pay for equal work’ in May. They had also boycotted work during the second wave of the pandemic.