It is purely out of this conviction and commitment United Nurses Association (UNA), was founded in November 2011. UNA is the largest association of nurses in the state. When UNA took the job up, it faced severe resistance primarily from the Indian Medical Association (which never in its history did standup against a doctors’ strike). UNA negotiated with hospital managements for fair wages, proper leave policies, job security etc. Resistance developed up to the point of rumours that Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to be enforced by the government. All the major hospitals in Kerala including dealt the protests with force. It was the media support that brought the protest to slowly changing the public opinion on the matter and thus the High Court of Kerala quashing a plea for ESMA. With the issue snowballing, major political parties and trade unions are compelled to pledge support to the nurses’ strike and the government to engage in some plain speaking to managements.
A committee was appointed to study the issue. The committee, on May 2012, came up with a lot of reforms the recommendations of the committee including fair wage standards and an eight hour shift. These are but yet to be implemented.
Nurses continued to be a neglected group in the country despite being a large working group who render great service to the people. Most private hospitals pay them poorly and deny even the basic labour right to organize themselves for collective bargaining for fair pay. When majority of nurses in government hospitals work eight hours, private hospital nurses are compelled to work for up to 16 hours continuously finding it hard to get even weekly off. Newcomers are forced to execute a bond and have to work on a fixed salary without any allowances for certain period prescribed by the managements, and, on expiry of deadline the bond period is either extended or academic certificates held back to compel them to remain in the same hospital.
Many big private hospitals pay around Rs 10,000 for doctors as incentive for each surgery they perform. But, not single paisa is given to the nurses who support the doctors through the hours-long operations. They deny night shift allowances, insurance and other social welfare schemes to their nursing staff.
UNA stands for and committed to ensure better livelihood and better hassle free work environment for nurses. It has spearheaded epic struggles for nurse’s cause and will continue their struggles for nurses.