Nurses in Chennai fight for better wages and working conditions

Over 2000 nurses working in Apollo Hospital, MMM Hospital and Fortis Malar hospitals in Chennai went on strike in the first week of March, demanding better wages and working conditions. Their persistent demands since November 2011 have been ignored by the managements of these hospitals. Faced with rising cost of living and very exploitative conditions at work, these nurses were left with no choice but to go on strike to assert their demands.

Nurses are an indispensable part of the hospital system. Yet their services are very often simply taken for granted and the conditions they face, as workers, as women and as human beings ignored.

In the course of the agitation, the nurses explained how they have to undergo rigorous training for 3-4 years after high school, for which their families have to bear a hefty cost. To secure a job in a private hospital, they often have to sign bonds, which compel them to work for 10-12 hours at a stretch, for several years, at meager wages of Rs. 5000-6000 per month. Their certificates are kept by the hospital management, making it difficult for them to apply for other jobs. They have to work in difficult conditions, at all hours of the day or night, in the hospitals and have to live in hostels that are often overcrowded.  Most of them have to take loans to pay for their training, but with these meager wages they can barely make two ends meet, let alone repay their loans or assist their families.  On the other hand, the private hospitals in which these nurses work mainly service well-to-do patients and medical tourists from various countries, charge exorbitant fees and make fabulous profits.  But the nurses, whose labour and dedication are vital factors contributing to these profits, are treated as sub-humans.

If the nurses try to organize and raise their voice against these terrible conditions, they are threatened with termination of their jobs, eviction from their hostels and are even attacked for gathering outside the hospital gates. 

Defying these threats, the striking nurses held a miltant dharna on March 7, at the Memorial Hall near the central station. Nurses from both Apollo hosptial and Fortis Malar hospital participated in this dharna and unitedly raised their demands. The nurses also held a demonstration and rally on March 8, International Women's Day, from Rajarathnam stadium to Egmore. Over 1000 nurses from Apollo Main Hospital, Speciality Hospital at Teynampet, First Med-Kilpauk, Apollo hospital at Tondiarpet took part in this demonstration. Many nurses addressed the rally highlighting their plight and emphasizing their just demands.

Lok Raj Sangathan (Makkalatchi Iyakkam), Tamil Nadu supported the nurses' struggle and issued a leaflet in their support, which was widely distributed among the public.

Mazdoor Ekta Lehar supports the just struggle of the nurses.


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