Mumbai A government resolution (GR) allowing the hiring of nurses on a contract basis through a private agency has led to a statewide stir. Nurses and nursing students across Maharashtra have started token protests since Monday and have threatened an indefinite strike from Saturday if the government does not scrap the new order.
Nearly 4,500 nursing posts are currently vacant in hospitals under the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER). The GR issued on April 13 stated that 1,769 of these vacant posts could be filled by outsourcing the hiring to an external agency. Nurses and their associations are up in arms against the government for privatising the hiring process.
“When vacancies are filled in a regular manner, the candidates are hired in a more competitive way. On the other hand, when a private agency does the hiring, they will get candidates who are ready to work at low salaries and competence will always be secondary,” said Arun Kadam, executive president of the Maharashtra State Nurses Association.
He further added, “The state’s decision to outsource the hiring will also lead to exploitation of nurses. It is a known fact that private agencies make huge money but the employees hired on a contractual basis get little. Such a government order has long-term repercussions on the future nurses too,” he said.
Since Monday, the nurses have been boycotting work for an hour between 7.30 am to 8.30 am. If the government does not act on their demand, they will boycott work for the entire day on Thursday and Friday. “From Saturday, we will start an indefinite strike across the state,” said Manisha Shinde, president of the association.
In addition to the scrapping of the GR, the nurses have also demanded ‘request-based transfers’ instead of regular, mandatory transfers. “Transfers affect the nurses deeply as they have many domestic responsibilities like looking after children, parents, in-laws etc. Therefore, nurses should be transferred only if they request it,” said Kadam.
The nursing associations had multiple meetings with the DMER authorities last week. “We met many of their representatives and have appealed to them to call off the strike,” said Dr Ajay Chandanwale, joint director of DMER. “The outsourcing of hiring is a temporary solution to ensure that patient services are not affected. The regular process for permanent hiring will start soon,” he said.
However, Chandanwale did not comment on the withdrawal of GR.
The token strike has not affected work in hospitals, however, patient services are likely to be affected if nurses start the day-long strike.
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