Bihar government orders termination of services of 80,000 striking health workers
More than 80,000 health managers, pharmacists, OT assistants, technicians, data operators, paramedics counsellors and nurses have been on strike in Bihar since December 4. These contract workers are demanding regularisation and equal work for equal pay. It is reported that the workers began agitating, “buoyed by the recent Patna High Court judgment of giving equal pay to contractual teachers similar to that of the regularised teaching staff.”
But the government has responded with the threat that the striking workers will have their employment terminated as they have violated the terms of their contract. On its part, the Health Workers Association, has threatened action if terminations are actually carried out.
Haryana National Health Mission workers on strike
In Haryana, doctors also joined the contractual NHM workers for a two-day state-wide strike. More than 12,500 are employed under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) as well as National Urban Health Mission (NUHM). These workers have been negotiating with the government about regularisation since 2015. They were promised equal pay in September 2016 and again in October 2017, but the government’s promises have not been kept.
Strike by nurses in Chennai broken after judicial threat
Government nurses in Tamil Nadu went on a strike from November 27, demanding regularisation of their employment and rationalising their pay scales with regular nurses rather than being retained on consolidated pay. While the government was willing to consider minor increases to their present wage of Rs 7,700 a month, it did not commit to any substantive change in the nature of tenure. For three days and two nights, over 3000 nurses sat on a dharna in front of the Directorate of Rural Health and Medicine in Chennai. They braved the weather and police threats to demand to be treated on par with the other government nurses. But the High Court of Madras, hearing a PIL against the action by the nurses, declared the strike action illegal and threatened penal action if they did not re-join work by next day. The stern warning by the Chief Justice, who even taunted the nurses to quit the job if they felt the wage was low, forced the nurses to withdraw the strike and return to work by November 30.
Over 11,000 nurses had been recruited through the Medical Recruitment Board of Tamil Nadu in 2015 to implement central government schemes. Their repeated demands for job regulation and increase in pay scales met with little response from the government. This prompted them to go on an indefinite strike until their demands were met. The intervention by the High Court and the increasing threat of administrative and police action against the striking workers has forced them to withdraw the strike at this time.