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Nurses’ protest against exploitation

UHSA, UNFA, UNPA l

Shadow of stir looms large over hospital

The strike by nurses who were once largely disorganised in the state is now united and focused with hospital after hospital cast by the shadows of agitation. About two months ago, private hospitals in the state with an active union were a rarity. In fact, the United Nurses Association (UNA), the largest association of nurses in the state, was founded at the same time. Today the organisation has branches in 432 hospitals across the state and is expanding by the day.

“We hope to spread our units across the state. In the next six months, we hope to bring about significant changes in the salaries of nurses in all hospitals across the state. The hospitals will be given notices raising our demands, following which we will hold discussions with the management. Only when the talks fail do we go in for a strike,” said the president of the United Nurses Association, Jasminesha M.

The list of hospitals served notices by the UNA includes St James Hospital, Thrissur, Baby Memorial Hospital, Kozhikode, K V M Hospital, Cherthala, Al Shifa Hospital, Pathanamthitta and Gokulam Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram. These are just the list of hospitals under the UNA. Apart from this, there are other organisation like the All-Kerala Nurses Welfare Association, which has been striking in Kolenchery MOSC Medical College.

The union members maintain that they are only looking for providing a platform for the long- pending grievances of the nurses. “We served notices on hospitals about a month ago. The issues were resolved amicably with 42 hospitals. Strike was launched only in five hospitals,” said Jasminesha.

But not everyone is satisfied with these answers. Labour Minister Shibu Baby John said: “Many of these strikes are illegal. It is true that there are genuine issues that have to be addressed. But the kind of direction the strikes are taking at the moment is likely to defeat their very purpose.”

“All hospitals were given notices to implement the minimum wages prescribed by the government. We have even issued circulars declaring that if any hospital is found deviating from the norm it will be penalised.

The Labour Department was given notice just one or two days prior to the strike. Even after two or three rounds of talks there were no compromises. In the case of the Kolenchery MOSC Medical Hospital, 17 of the 19 demands put forward by the nurses were met by the hospital management. But the union did not even agree to give a ten-day period for the hospital to consider the remaining demands,” the minister added.

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