Around 5,000 nurses of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) advanced their indefinite strike with immediate effect on Monday after the premier medical institute allegedly converted the terms of employment from permanent to contract basis.
The strike was earlier scheduled to be observed from Wednesday.
The nurses union of AIIMS claimed that the hospital administration has introduced contract terms to their employment which forced them to pre-empt their strike. It said that the decision has come as shock to the whole fraternity.
"We had clearly stated in our demands that we don't want to be handed over to the private agencies which would keep us on contractual term of employment. Despite, the administration acted against it. This is why we have started our strike ahead of our schedule," said Harish Kumar, president, AIIMS nurses union, told IANS.
The nurses of the central hospital had communicated to the AIIMS administration that they will go on the indefinite strike from Wednesday as their long-pending list of 23 demands which included no introduction of contract terms in the employment and restructuring of their salary as per the Sixth Pay Commission.
Besides, the union also told IANS that they were assured by the Union Health Minister in a meeting in October 2019 that their salary would be restructured as per the Sixth Pay Commission, which is yet to be done by the administration.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria has issued a video in response to the sudden strike and condemned the action taken by the nurses. He also claimed that the interpretation of the nurses for their salary hike is incorrect.
"It seems inappropriate that when the country is going through hardships, the nurses union are asking for a pay hike. It is very, very inappropriate that when we all are reeling under the pandemic, people are losing their loved ones and enduring loss of jobs, the nurses have called for the strike and are asking for a pay hike," Dr Guleria said.
"The interpretation of initial pay according to the the sixth pay commission by the nurses union is incorrect and beyond the provision of the gazette notification. Multiple meetings have been held with the nurses union not just from the hospital administration, but the economic advisor to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to make them understand this point," he said.
"However, the government had said that it will sympathetically look at this as a fresh demand and would ask the department to consider it," Dr Guleria added.
He also said that apart from the hike in the salaries, almost all the demands by the nurses union have been met.
But Dr Guleria did not mention about the contract term of services which has caused the strike by the nurses.
"I appeal to all of you to comeback and work and really help us get through the pandemic. Whatever issues you have, we will try and resolve amicably and try to be sympathetic to your demands but at this time of hardship please do not go on strike," he said.