Junior nurses employed on compulsory duty at all the government medical colleges in Kerala have launched an indefinite strike demanding an increase in monthly stipend, putting more strain on the health infrastructure in the state already under pressure due to the rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases.
About 375 junior nurses, who have completed the BSc Nursing degree course and are registered under the Kerala Nurses and Midwives Council, work at the seven medical colleges and hospitals in the state after being deployed on one-year duty.
They want a hike in stipend, which, they say, has not been revised since 2011, when it was increased to Rs 13,900 from Rs 6,000. The revision in 2011 was done to ensure their basic payscale match those of staff nurses.
However, since 2011, the basic pay of staff nurses has increased to Rs 27,800, while that of the junior nurses has remained the same.
They have been demanding pay parity saying they are also equally exposed to the dangers of COVID-19 as staff nurses. They pointed out that over 10 junior nurses have tested positive for coronavirus. Another 50 are under quarantine, they said.
The junior nurses had gone on strike on August 8, but they returned to duty after the state officials promised to hold discussions with them.
While discussions have been held, the nurses decided to go on indefinite strike saying the talks yielded no positive results.
According to officials of Compulsory Nursing Service Staff Association, which represents junior nurses, they have been demanding a pay hike for over a year. They pointed out that as per a Supreme Court order, registered nurses should be given the same salary as confirmed employees in hospitals with over 200 beds.
“The government is taking a favourable stand, and is seriously considering the demand of the nurses for a pay hike,” Dr Jolly Jose, Joint Director for Nursing Studies told NDTV.
The strike has come at a time the state is witnessing rapid increase in COVID cases. The state has reported over 54,000 cases so far, with the daily count now averaging near 2,000.