By Nidhi Kinhal
Nurses’ wages in Kerala are still extremely low. So, the Industrial Relations Committee decided to take up the issue after nurses from private hospitals (involved with the UNA and Indian Nurses Association), have been protesting and agitating since June. However, after a meeting on Monday, the Committee altered the original demand of Rs.20,000 per month basic pay to a varying basic wage system based on the bed strength of a hospital. Wait, what?
Raising the minimum salary from Rs. 8775 to Rs. 17,200, the Committee fixed Rs. 20,980 as the pay for hospitals with 300-500 beds, Rs. 22,040 for hospitals with 500-800 beds, and Rs. 23, 760 for hospitals with over 800 beds.
The disparity between the wages of nurses and of doctors has been growing disproportionately, every year. “When I started working in 1987, an MBBS doctor got Rs 1,500-2,000 and nurses got about Rs 1,000.That was the difference. Today, a doctor gets Rs 30,000 and a nurse gets Rs 6,000-8,000 in the first year,” Roy George, Kerala president of the Trained Nurses Association of India reportedly said.
Massively dissatisfied by the decision, the UNA conducted a march to the government Secretariat from Martyrdom’s column, expressing their feeling of betrayal, and declaring that they will abstain from work from July 17, staging a hunger protest till their demands are met. “How many hospitals in Kerala have more than 800 beds, only a few. The government has betrayed us by not increasing the money we can take home, but simply played with numbers,” Ernakulam’s nurses commented. “Bed strength of hospitals can be taken into consideration for deciding benefits, but using it to fix the basic pay is absurd,” a male nurse from Thrissur told The News Minute.
The consequences of such a strike are clear: Growing dissatisfaction, impairment in hospitals’ functioning, poor, sustained living conditions for nurses and lack of healthcare facilities for the general public. Hospital hierarchies have affected nurses all over the country for a long time. Given that the costs to train as a nurse are high, and the demand for decent pay isn’t outrageous at all, there’s clearly a need to address the problem satisfactorily, immediately.