by Comrade S Balan
Compiled by Robin Christopher J
It feels so nice when one sees a newspaper saying that the Government has stepped up to create thousands of jobs for the people of this Country. But, then I wonder do they even understand what they actually said or is it just uttering and muttering! And still like an idiot I go through the whole advertisement to find out what it was and to my dismay its simple logic. You hire people for cheap wages and don’t provide them with any benefits and if some sane person questions that, just prove that the laws are complied with and then who cares, life just goes on. This advertisement is a reflection of the sick reality of the way the Government in order to sell those jobs for money fired 408 nurses working in the major government hospitals in Bangalore. During the protests the nurses highlighted their problems by abusing the minister and guess what, the minister who doesn’t listen to what the nurses have to say was quite sensitive enough to know of the language and the words used to abuse him and the next day with the tip of his pen at one stroke he passed the termination order and deployed the police to chase the nurses out of Bangalore Medical College premises.
This is an on-going struggle in Bangalore, wherein the nurses (428 in numbers), mostly female, have been denied job as nurses in Boring, Vani Vilas, Minto and Victoria hospitals at Bangalore. They have been rendering unblemished service as nurses over a period ranging from 1 to 5 years. They have a basic qualification of Pre-University College and have successfully completed three and half years course of Diploma in Nursing and Midwifery. They are also registered with the Karnataka Nursing Council.
By Notification no. 24LWA96, Bangalore dated April, 11 1997 Government of Karnataka prohibited the employment of nurses on contract basis in hospitals (both private and public) under Section 10(1) of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act – 1970. It is very significant that the Health Department of Government of Karnataka flouted the above referred notification and employed 428 nurses on contract basis in 4 Government Hospitals referred above. The nurses were in active service and their employment was renewed periodically. They made several representations to the authorities under the Ministry of Health to regularise their service and to pay the salaries on par with nurses on permanent roles.
Since 09.01.2013 onwards they were in Bannappa Park requesting to regularise their service and they also were communicating with the Dean and Director, BMCRI (Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute) to permit them to join their duties. On 24.01.2013 they approached the Labour Commissioner, Karmika Bhavana to make conciliatory effort regarding their request and demands, in the meanwhile to permit them to join their duties to protect the interest of patients and general public. Despite service of notices, neither Dean and Director nor any of his representatives participated in the conciliatory proceedings. On 29.1.2013, the Chief Administration Officer of BMCRI participated in the proceedings. The Additional Labour Commissioner advised to restore normalcy. On part of the nurses, they agreed to withdraw from the protest and to join their duties forthwith. The CAO agreed to permit them to join their duties in respective hospitals on or before 04.02.2013. Thereafter, the matter was posted on 02.02.2013, 04.02.2013, 05.02.2013, 07.02.2013, 11.02.2013, 13.02.2013 and 15.02.2013 but neither CAO nor any representatives from BMCRI appeared, but the nurses were advised to be calm assuring that some positive development would take place. Finally nothing had happened except bald and vague assurances from BMCRI, Labour Department and other intra Governmental agencies.
On 16th February 2013, Hon’ble Medical Education Minster terminated the service 408 staff nurses at the stroke of the pen on the ground that they approached Court of Law, demanded enhancement of salary and regularisation of services. According to the Minister any request for better service condition is an offence and liable for termination of service. As of now we have made applications under Sections 30-A and 33(2) of ID act to the Deputy Labour Commissioner. We are intending to challenge the termination notice issued by the Governing Council headed by the minister.
(Comrade Balan is a Trade Union Leader and an Advocate who is spearheading workers’ struggles in Karnataka. He has a rare quality of blending law and struggle politics. Robin is a Lawyers for Change Fellow practising law with Comrade S. Balan in Bangalore. Robin is also associated with Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum as a Joint Secretary of Bangalore. He graduated from School of Law, Christ University in 2012. Robin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)