Over 130 nurses employed in Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida/NCR have been on strike since 12.05.2012 (Saturday) against rampant violation of their basic rights. On an average most of the nurses on strike have been working in the hospital for three to four years, but have received minimal or no salary increments since the date of joining. As of today, majority of the GNM staff (general nurse and midwife) and B.Sc. qualified nurses are receiving the paltry sum of Rs. 7000/- to Rs. 8000/- only. There are, of course, some GNM nurses who receive just Rs. 5000. “There is absolutely no regulation on the salary scale because it all depends on the mood of the authorities—if they like our face they give us a little more, and if they don’t like our looks they pay us less,” said one of the nurses. Interestingly, in order to conceal their outright exploitation of the nurses, the Sharda management refuses to release payslips for the nurses’ salary.
Neither are the nurses paid for the overtime work they are made to perform on a regular basis. In fact, in complete violation of the Employee’ Provident Fund Act and Rules, the Sharda management is not even depositing PF or maintaining the PF records. As in government hospitals where special allowances are released, the nurses of Sharda do not receive such payments/allowance for special duties in ICU, OT, etc., which is another example of how the nurses’ basic rights are being violated by the hospital. Apart from PF, the hospital even denies its nursing staff something as basic as ESI or free treatment, vaccinations, etc.
The striking nurses also highlighted how the less qualified nurses, i.e. ANM staff (auxiliary nurse and midwife) were receiving higher salaries (to the tune of Rs. 16000 and above) compared to the GNM staff (general nurse and midwife), due to the unhealthy practice of nepotism and favouritism exercised by the Sharda management. In fact, the nepotism has reached such an extent that the post of nursing superintendent, which is supposed to be assigned to a M.Sc. qualified nurse, has been allotted to a GNM qualified nurse by the hospital management. “This might just seem like a small technical point to some, but this is a stipulation specified by the Medical Council of India. Its violation is putting patients at serious risk because the nursing superintendent is inept when it comes to guiding the nursing team under her,” explained one of the striking nurses. According to the striking nurses the list of norms violated by the Sharda management is endless. In complete violation of the Clinical Establishment Act, the hospital is replacing the striking nurses with untrained staff and nursing students from their attached school of nursing.
The nurses of Sharda hospital are also fighting against the inhuman work load they are forced to adhere to. On an average, in the general ward, two nurses are assigned to 45 patients. Again, in complete violation of the World Health Organization’s(WHO) norms of one nurse to one or two ICU patients, in Sharda hospital one nurse is assigned up to four ICU patients—a workload which compromises the quality of patient care a nurse can perform. Due to massive shortage of attendant staff, the nurses are regularly compelled to perform duties which are outside their prescribed nursing duties. Furthermore, in an extremely authoritative manner, the Sharda management denies the nurses sufficient leave. Most of the time the nurses are provided only 3 to 5 days leave and that too after submitting a whole host of documentation. “It is alarming how the management expects nurses from places like Kerela to reach their hometown, spend time at home and be back for duty in just three days,” highlighted one of the striking nurses. Some of the married female nurses explained that it was only with the greatest of difficulty that they could avail of two months maternity leave—an act which is a serious violation of the prescribed labour law pertaining to maternity leave.
Unfortunately, instead of helping create conducive conditions for collective bargaining and amicable negotiation, the local administration and police is intervening in a manner which reflects their connivance with the Sharda management. For example, the local police have refused to accept written complaints of the female nurses who wish to complain against the fact that bouncers employed by the hospital keep entering their hostel at night. In fact, the Sharda management has been using the local police to intimidate the striking nurses. On one hand the management refuses to appear for negotiation at the Deputy Labour Commissioner’s office, and on the other, they arm-twist the nurses by putting up eviction notices inside the hostel. The problem, however, is not just that the Deputy Labour Commissioner of Noida has failed to get the management to the negotiating table, or, that the entire local administration has failed to create amicable conditions for negotiation. The crux of the problem is that the state has created no proper and comprehensive legislation to protect the rights of the nursing community.
Meanwhile, the situation with respect to the nurses’ strike in Faridabad remained tense. Negotiations continue to remain inconclusive while intimidation continues.
Centre For Struggling Women (CSW)
Workers’ Unity Centre of India (WUCI)