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Wage-hike war scars hospital

The toilets and the bedpans have not been cleaned; the bedsheets have not been changed; the garbage has not been cleared — all for the past three days.

Welcome to Peerless Hospital and B.K. Roy Research Centre, where healthcare has been hit hard, thanks to a section of the Citu-affiliated Group-D staff union. The workers have struck work, demanding higher wages, forcing the authorities to stop admissions and start discharging patients from Tuesday morning.

For the past few months, 140-odd housekeeping, cleaning and security personnel, under the Citu banner, have been demanding a raise. “It is not possible in a loss-making hospital like ours. We have had several rounds of talks with the union leaders and made them a reasonable offer, which they have rejected,” said the hospital’s medical director A.K. Sanyal. “They have struck work in the name of a go-slow and have refused to help the patients, forcing us to keep back only the critically ill beyond Tuesday.”

The employees in question are on contract and draw a salary between Rs 1,900 and Rs 2,000. They have demanded a hike of the Rs 150-200-250 slab, as opposed to the management’s offer of Rs 125-150-175. Matters came to a head last Thursday, after yet another round of talks failed to break the deadlock.

The employees, 94 among them from the housekeeping and cleaning department, then declared a ‘go-slow’ in the 300-bed hospital off the EM Bypass.

With no solution in sight, other members of the staff decided to step in on Sunday. Led by vice-president (marketing and administration) Rupak Barua, various executives, along with the nursing staff, started clearing the garbage and cleaning the toilets. “But we were stopped, some nurses were threatened and senior executives were manhandled,” said Barua. On Monday evening, the hospital management met to decide that most of the 210 patients would be discharged from Tuesday.

Khokon Bhowmik of the Shramik Thikadari Union said: “All we have asked for is minimum wages for the employees. But the management is deliberately spreading lies. There is no agitation and hospital operations are running smoothly.”

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