Following intense protests for almost two months, private hospital nurses in Kerala called off their strike on Thursday after the government agreed to enforce a hike in their minimum pay to Rs 20,000.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the representatives of nurses' associations with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at his office on Thursday evening. The Chief Minister’s office said that the decision on the wage hikes was unanimous.
"The decision was unanimous. It has been decided to hike the minimum pay of nurses working in hospitals with a bed strength of up to 50 to Rs 20,000. The government will appoint a committee to decide on the salary of nurses working in hospitals where the number of beds is more than 50," a statement from the Chief Minister's office said.
"There will be timely increase in the stipend of nursing trainees. The committee will also consider and submit recommendations on the trainees' stipend and the period of training. The committee will submit its report in a month," the statement added.
Ahead of the final meeting, the Chief Minister had held separate discussions with representatives of trade unions who are part of the minimum wage committee as well as with private hospital managements. Minister for Health KK Shylaja, Minister for Law AK Balan, Labour Minister TP Ramakrishnan, and officials of various departments also took part in the meeting.
The Chief Minister took the stand that it is not possible to go back on the salary level directed by the Supreme Court. "In Kerala, wages are better than all other states in all sectors. The better living standard of the state is related to the better wages here. Nurses who have high educational qualifications deserve better wages," he told the media.
More than one lakh nurses working in private hospitals across the state have been protesting for a wage hike since June. The protests were spearheaded by the United Nurses Association and the Indian Nurses Association.
The government had earlier intervened in the issue by asking the Industrial Relations Committee to decide on the salary of nurses. However, this process was futile. The Committee’s recommendation did not address the main demand of the nurses – to hike the minimum pay to Rs 20,000. The associations then called for an indefinite strike from July 17.
UNA retracted the decision to proceed with the strike following the Chief Minister’s invitation for a discussion. The INA, however, went ahead with the strike, crippling the functioning of private hospitals in central and northen Kerala.