For the past seven years, Kannur native Nainni had been working as an attendant and sanitation worker at the Kannur Medical College in Anjarakandy. The 43-year-old woman, a single mother of two children, had been raising the family with the meagre pay she had been receiving from the hospital. But it has been about four months now since Nainni has received her salary from the hospital.
Like Nainni, about 300 other staff of this private medical college in Kerala’s Kannur, including nurses and doctors, are left in the lurch, without salary for the last many months. Reason? The hospital, which was shut down in March following a strike by a section of workers demanding a raise in wages, was taken over by the Kannur district administration and turned into a COVID-19 care centre.
“Now, no one is giving us any salary and we are left jobless, for the last four months. People like me, who are the sole breadwinners of the family, are in dire strait. No one is even asking us how we are living without any income,” Nainni told TNM.
About 60 permanent staff of the medical college, including nurses, sanitation workers and other medical staff, had been holding an indefinite strike in the hospital demanding minimum salaries for all employees.
According to the staff, although the district administration intervened and held a meeting to reach a compromise, the hospital administration shut down the institution, throwing all staff members, including faculties of the college who had not been part of the strike, jobless.
“Back in 2016, we had held a similar strike with many demands, including a hike in the salaries to maintain minimum wages. Though the strike was resolved after some local representatives intervened, the demands were not fully met. So in February this year, we started the strike again, this time, indefinitely. The District Collector called for a meeting to reach a consensus, but the hospital administration did not turn up and shut the hospital in mid-March. Very soon, lockdown, too, was announced, and the district administration took over the hospital for COVID-19 as it was shut down,” said Binsha, who was working as a nurse in the hospital.
The staff of the hospital, in association with the Private Hospital and Medical Shop Employees Union, which is part of CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions), held a dharna in front of Kannur Collectorate on June 15.
“While taking over the hospital, the District Collector had said all the employees of the hospital will be given jobs at the COVID-19 care centre. But it has not been done yet. Instead, a special team from the health department was deployed there. The Kerala government should intervene at once in the issue, as the livelihood of hundreds of people is at stake here,” P Hareendran, president of Private Hospital and Medical Shop Employees Union, told TNM.
TNM had tried to contact Kannur District Collector and management of Anjarakandy Medical College, but could not get a reaction on the issue.