About 2,500 nurses working in various state government hospitals took out a rally from the SSKM Hospital in south-central Kolkata on Thursday afternoon accusing the health department of not keeping its promise of revising their pay scale.
The nurses would carry on a relay hunger strike at the School of Nursing building in SSKM till their demands were met, said a protesting nurse.
This is the second time in four months that nurses are protesting to seek a pay hike and bring their salary on a par with other state government officials with similar qualifications.
“When we met the minister of health in August during our agitation, she had promised us that our demands would be met within three to four months. Health department’s officials had told us that they would contact us. But three months have passed and there is no progress,” said Bibha Maity, an assistant secretary of Nurses Unity, an association of nurses.
She said when a group of nurses met senior health department officials earlier this month, they were nonchalant and casual. “We met the health secretary and the director of health services. None of them could say anything,” said a protesting nurse.
During their agitation in August, the nurses had told Metro that a nurse with a diploma should be entitled to Level-12 pay but they get Level-9 pay. Nurses across all categories — diploma-holder, BSc-degree holder, experienced, fresher — get less than what they should be entitled to, they had said.
Keka Karam, a nurse who has been on hunger strike since Monday, said they were also protesting the state health department’s vindictive attitude. “They have transferred many nurses to far away places from their current places of posting just after we met senior officials seeking to know what happened to our demands,” she said
Ajay Chakraborty, the state’s director of health services, said the nurses’ demands “were under administrative consideration”. “This is a policy decision and will require some time. The nurses are providing services in hospitals despite the protest. Senior officials of the SSKM Hospital have repeatedly sought to speak to them but they have not agreed to talk so far.”