Thiruvananthapuram: Nurses in Kerala`s leading private hospitals are up in arms and have brought work to a standstill demanding a fair compensation for their hard work.
Since Thursday, nurses at the Muthoot Hospital in Pathanamthitta district have gone on strike demanding better service conditions. And just last week, 800 nurses at the Mata Amritanandamayi-owned Amrita Hospital at Kochi went on strike and forced the hospital management to bow to their demands.
Speaking to reporters, M.K. Vijesh, state vice-president of the United Nurses Association (UNA), said the nurses` demand is to be given a fair deal as per the Minimum Wages Act 2009. As per government rules, the starting salary of a nurse, including allowances, should be around Rs.8,000.
"That is only on paper and, in most hospitals, the starting monthly salary is just Rs.3,000 and after a year, some are paid a maximum of Rs.5,000 per month. This is nothing but sheer exploitation and that`s what we are against," added Vijesh.
Compared to their counterparts in Kerala, the scenario for nurses employed abroad is totally different with salaries in the Middle East starting from Rs.50,000 upwards, while in the US, UK and Australia, it begins from Rs.1.50 lakh and upwards.
S. Irudayarajan, chief of the migration unit at the Centre for Development Studies here who has done repeated surveys on migration in the state, says it is time that separate studies are carried out on Kerala nurses working abroad.
"In our study, we have found out that 15 percent of the migrants from Kerala are women, of which a huge majority are nurses, who contribute a giant share of the remittances made to the state every year," said Irudayarajan.
Anju Thomas, a nurse who is in her final year of nursing is clear in that the moment she passes out, she will leave for Australia where her sister works as a nurse.
"I don`t think I will ever work here because conditions are appalling. No wonder protests have begun," said Thomas.
State Labour Minister Shibu Baby John said the top officials of the labour department have begun inspection of the way things are being run at the private hospitals.
"We are trying to find a solution to this and we are working out a way through which the labour department can monitor the payment of salaries at private hospitals and for this a common platform has to be there through computer networking," said John.