The following article is written by Nissar Adoor, a male nurse working in a corporate hospital in Delhi and relates to the recent upsurge in nurses protest in the mainly corporate/ private run hospitals. Inspired by the events like the Arab spring in the Middle East and Occupy Movements, nurses working in many corporate/ pvt. hospitals in India often under highly exploitative conditions, decided that enough was enough.
Led by the United Nurses Association (UNA), a Facebook group formed in October 2011, boosting a membership of more than 164,000 members today, the UNA has been in the forefront of many strikes in Kerala and also in solidarity actions with their co-nurse workers in other parts of India. This speaks volumes of the utter failure of the Stalinist parties led Trade Unions like CITU, AITUC who have failed to organise one of the key sectors of the working class.
The issue as the nurses have very well realized is not merely a question of wage dispute, but pertains to the highly exploitative nature of these private/ corporate hospitals that not only exploit its own staff and nurses but also out rightly fleece the patients by over charging them. The conditions of the nurses even in government hospitals is no better as the recent 8 day hunger strike by 4700 contract nurses in Bangalore demonstrated.
Of course the solution to the problem cannot brought about by reforming or regulating the private sector. It is a question on the one hand of complete absence of Universal health care in India versus an over abundance of private hospitals in every street corner of Urban India. Only nationalization of these private/corporate hospitals, under the democratic control of the working class, trade unions and health workers, can bring about a long lasting change not only to the living conditions of the nurses but also the vast majority of the Indian people who have been totally denied of basic health care.
Life of Nurses in India is a cursed one
Recently there have been reports of growing number of nurses strike in many private/ corporate hospitals in parts of urban India. Especially in Kerala this is not just a strike for better wages but also a strike against gross violation of labour laws of the land and lack of trade union rights. Nurses working in these private/ corporate hospitals, many of them hailing from Kerala, face extreme form of exploitation in these hospitals.
Nurses are super exploited
Some of the issues faced by the nurses include the following. All hospital management says duty time is only 8 hour, but in reality this hardly the case with most of them made to work beyond the duty time. Most of the hospitals are not providing medical insurance or free health coverage especially given the fact that nurses are more prone to get diseases and infections. Many of the hospitals pay a very low wages, as low as Rs. 1800 a month (which is nowhere near even pathetic the labour minimum wages of around Rs. 6000). While hospitals charge patients anywhere from Rs. 1500-2500 (per day) as nurses fee but nowhere is this reflected in the nurses salary. Private/ corporate hospitals demand bonded contracts, which if broken, nurses are forced to pay more than Rs. 50,000. Even the so called ISO certified hospitals hire untrained nurses thus bringing down the wages of skilled nurses and putting the lives of patients at risk. Male nurses are denied opportunities often because of flimsy reasons, while they cleverly over exploit female nurses by under paying and over-exploiting them. Nurses are punished on flimsiest grounds, cuts in their salary or double duty time are rampant. Besides all these, none of them enjoy any basic rights as workers and are denied trade union rights. Moreover, many nurses are made to endure psychological abuses from the management.
Added to all these is the heavy educational fees that many undergraduate nurses pay private nursing college, which costs more than Rs. 3 lakh thus getting them indebted, many of them borrow bank loans and find it extremely hard to pay back because of low salaries. And because of the better job opportunities, many nurses are forced to relocate to bigger cities of India thus only adding to more costs and further indebtedness.
It is time that the nursing fraternity organises itself to fight for:
*Trade Union rights for all the nurses
*Standardised Wages at-least according to the minimum wages fixed by the Government. Wages to be revised and adjusted to the cost of living, with mandatory yearly increments
*Open the books of the hospital managements to calculate the commensurate wages according to the wind fall of profits they grab.
*8 hr working day, overtime allowances, yearly leave and all other better working conditions.
*Standardise and increase the nurse–patient ratio
*Health coverage for all nurses to be borne by the hospital managements.
*Job opportunities to be made available to male nurses in hospitals.
*Lobby and force the Central Trade Unions to pro-actively intervene in the struggles of the Nurses and other hospital staff and organise them.