Thiruvananthapuram: With the high court directing the government to enforce Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) in the wake of strike called by nurses’ association and a section of hospital managements, the government has decided to take steps to avoid disruption of health care services in the state. It has urged the nurses’ association to drop the strike plan. However, the government is not keen on going for ESMA option which the ruling CPM considers a draconian law aimed at curbing the rights of workers. The LDF had strongly opposed the move to invoke ESMA against nurses during the UDF government’s regime.
Health minister K. K. Shylaja said the HC had already observed that it was not appropriate for nurses to keep off work. "I have appealed them to return to work on the basis of the decision taken by the government. The remaining demands can be taken up subsequently," she added. The minister said it was wrong to strike work in hospitals especially in the wake of fever cases. "Hospital services are essential services but that does not mean they cannot demand their rights.
However, there is a way to deal with such issues. We will examine what needs to be done in the light of HC directive. Everyone should return to work. For the moment they should accept the wages fixed by the minimum wages committee. If they require more then it could be discussed in the next phase. But they should not go ahead with the strike which could create huge problems to the patients. Since it is a labour issue,decision on further talks will be taken by the labour minister," she said.
Meanwhile, United Nurses Association (UNA) will hold state council meeting in Thrissur on Sunday to take a decision on the mode of strike in the wake of high court directive. “We will decide the next course of action keeping in view the High Court directive. It was the private hospital managements which announced on Thursday that they will shut hospitals from Monday. Till now we have not struck work in hospitals or given any call to do so. The government should not succumb to the threats of the private hospital managements,” said UNA president Jasminsha He said the association wanted the managements to implement the wages recommended by Supreme Court. The demands include minimum wags of Rs 20,000 in all, scrapping of the exploitative trainee system. "The government has already decided to pay Rs 17,200.They need to push this further to meet our demand,"he added.