Thousands of nurses working across private institutes and hospitals in Kerala have been striking work for quite a few days, demanding better salaries in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court. Despite the Kerala High Court, asking the government to invoke Emergency Services Maintenances Act, nurses have decided to intensify their agitation if salaries are not hiked.
With talks failing in Kannur and Kasargode districts, the Kannur district Collector came up with a solution: Ask nursing students to stand in for striking nurses. But that plan too backfired after students decided to stand with her striking colleagues.
Nursing students of the Pariyarom Medical College raised slogans against the governmentâ€™s efforts to make them replace striking nurses.
â€śAccording to rules, only nursing trainees with four years of experience can be given jobs as staff nurses. How can the government ask students to replace us? Are they not endangering the lives of patients by placing them in the hands of students?â€ť asked Abhiraj, United Nurses Association, Thiruvananthapuram District President.
Nurses associations are meeting the Chief Minister and other ministers on the 19th of this month, and will also put forward their grievances before the High Court, as the case comes up for hearing.
â€śIf these meetings too fail, we have decided to carry on with our strike. If a particular department in a hospital has five nurses, only one will work, the other four will strike. Around 1.5 lakhs nurses across Kerala will protest outside the Secretariat. And that would be an indefinite strike.
Private hospital nurses in Kerala have been protesting for better wages for over 20 days now. While the Supreme Court gave guidelines in 2016 for minimum wages for nurses, the nurses in Kerala claim that they're only being paid a fraction of what is being prescribed. While government hospital nurses get a basic pay of Rs 22,000 per month, nurses in private hospitals get only around Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000. Trainees, in fact, are paid even less: They get around Rs 5,000, and hospitals keep them on as trainees for several years in order to keep them underpaid.
The High Court, on Friday, had asked for Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to be invoked on the striking nurses, observing that the nurses were playing with the lives of human beings. The HC direction came after a petition was filed by private hospital managements.
The indefinite strike was paused from Saturday, after an invitation by the Chief Minister officeâ€™s for a discussion with the organization on July 19.