Kerala: Nurses Strike in Thrissur Pvt Hospitals Forces Managements to Agree on Assured Minimum Wages
Nurses taking out a rally in Thrissur as part of the strike demanding assured minimum wages and end contract employment. | (Image courtesy: special arrangement)
Nurses employed in private hospitals in Thrissur district have won a prolonged struggle for a minimum daily wage of Rs 1,500. The 72-hour-long strike, which began from 7 a.m on April 11, ended within 24 hours after the management of the private hospitals conceded to the demands of the nurses led by the United Nurses Association (UNA).
The managements of around 30 hospitals also promised to ensure permanent jobs for trainees and employees under contract. The nurses were assured of at least 50% hike in wages, as per the agreements arrived at with the managements of the hospitals.
The UNA plans to hold more protest programmes, including strikes, demanding the implementation of minimum wages as prescribed by the government of Kerala in all private hospitals across the state. It condemned the Kerala Private Hospitals Association for seeking a stay on the wage revision for nurses and demanded the abolition of contract staff in the health sector, ensuring honest wages and job assurance.
The UNA called for a 72-hour strike in the private hospitals of Thrissur district from April 11 after demands for implementation of the minimum wages were delayed.
Speaking to Newsclick, Shoby Joseph, state president of UNA, accused the private hospital management of not heeding to the demands of the nurses. “Over the past six months we have held token strikes, observed black days and held protests, but to no avail. We were left with no option but to resort to strike”.
The association of the management approached the High Court of Kerala seeking a ban on the strike announced. But the court refused to pass an order, sending the hospital services, including ICU functioning, for a toss. Many of the hospitals discharged patients and advised them to get treated in neighbouring districts. The talks held during the proceedings days also failed leading to the launch of the strike.
Six of the hospitals accepted the demands on April 11 itself following which the nurses returned to work in these hospitals. Other hospitals held talks with the representatives of the union.
“Other hospitals accepted our demands within 24 hours of the strike since it was a massive success with 100% participation. An interim relief of 50% hike in the salary was also accepted by the managements of the hospitals”, Shoby added.
The agreement arrived during 2017 for a minimum wage of Rs 20,000 and the next revision was in the pipeline in 2020 but was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UNA claimed that several corporate hospitals were slashing the salaries of the nurses during the pandemic.
“While the nurses in the government hospitals are well paid, similar people were paid very low wages. This discrimination needs to be brought to an end. We will hold similar strikes in all the districts in a phased manner to win our rights”, Shoby said.
Another major allegation of the UNA was about the hospitals extending the contract and training period of the nurses to reduce their expenses towards salaries. The UNA has demanded the abolition of contract recruitment in the health sector to ensure equal wage for equal work.
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