Tamil Nadu Temporary Nurses Lose Paid Maternity Leaves
Temporary nurses protest the cancellation of paid maternity leave at Chennai’s Rajarathinam Stadium. Image courtesy: Ashwini Grace.
Tamil Nadu nurses recruited temporarily through the Tamil Nadu Medical Recruitment Board (MRB) have lost the hard-won right of paid maternity leave obtained after a 2021 protest.
Last November, the health department issued a circular stating that the state can’t pay contract nurses on maternity leave under the National Health Mission (NHM). On May 2, the NHM Tamil Nadu said the circular applies to MRB-appointed contract nurses, including those hired on contracts or outsourced.
Moreover, the health department is recovering money paid to MRB-appointed contractual nurses on maternity leave. Now, only permanent nurses are eligible for paid maternity leave.
Since 2015, around 13,000 nurses have been employed in government hospitals. According to the contract, they should have been made permanent and provided time-based scale pay after two years. However, only about 2,000 nurses have been regularised.
More than 3,000 primary healthcare centres do not have permanent staff. The Tamil Nadu Medical Recruitment Board Nurse Employees Association (TNMNEA) reiterated its demand for regularising MRB nurses following the cancellation of paid maternity leave.
PROTEST ON NURSES DAY
On International Nurses Day, May 12, several nurses held a one-day hunger strike at Chennai’s Rajarathinam Stadium demanding equal pay for equal work.
“The government should immediately appoint the nurses, who risked their lives during the pandemic’s peak,” U Vasuki, vice-president of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), told the protesting nurses.
AIDWA members support the hunger strike by nurses at Chennai’s Rajarathinam Stadium on May 12.
“We want a minimum salary of Rs 18,000 and equal pay for equal work. If the government does not increase the prices of essential commodities like gas cylinders, petrol and diesel and if all food items are available at cheap prices in ration shops, no one will demand a salary hike. The government has been increasing the prices of all commodities but refuses to pay more salary,” Vasuki said.
“Labour welfare laws are not enacted due to the government’s benevolence; they are hard won. Paid maternity leave was allowed after a long struggle by women’s organisations. What is the justification for maternity leave if only permanent workers get it?” she asked.
The Association also claimed that nurses weren’t paid the minimum salary despite working more than 12 hours daily, especially at primary healthcare centres.
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