Since independence nursing employees of all levels at government hospitals are being deprived of just salary structure. The situation in West Bengal is precarious. Neither the salary commission nor the state government has ascertained a logical and legitimate salary structure bringing an end to the extreme salary deprivation. As for example till now the GNM diploma holder nursing employees’ salary structure as per diploma has not yet been determined at par with the state government employees in the same grade their level.
The elected state governments, one after another, did not recognize the nurses as diploma holders. Starting from those in community health service to the other nursing school authority and its teachers, clinical instructors, lecturers, professors, ward sisters, deputy nursing superintendents, and even nursing superintendents– all are victims of deprivation. The policy of ascertaining salary structure on the basis of education qualification, training period, experience, responsibility of work has not been executed in case of nursing employees. Against this degrading and humiliating outlook concerning nursing employees, the ‘Nurses’ Unity’ has led demand deputations one after another not only to the former CPI (M) government, but also to the present TMC government. Despite recognizing the genuineness of the demands, these have not been implemented till now.
Besides submitting memoranda to every salary commission we upheld the logic of our demand to get approval of participation in the hearing of the salary commission. Perhaps because women workers form the majority in nursing profession, it has been taken for granted that such humiliating, dishonourable and inhuman conduct may be meted out to them.
Last 9 December 2016 keeping patient service unbroken the nursing workers held a sit-in-demonstration at SSKM hospital in Kolkata. The demonstration continued for three days. Then a discussion was held with the state health minister in the presence of the Directorate of Health Services and the then Principal Secretary of the Department of Health and it was promised to consider the demands favourably. But nothing positive emanated though many days rolled by. When the authorities were contacted, it was stated that the file was untraceable. Finally, under pressure, the file no OGA (ng)/IN03/2020) was retrieved. But because of covid pandemic, the nurses had to wait till the situation improved.
On 7 July, 2021 the ‘Nurses’ Unity’ submitted a memorandum to the chief minister demanding an end to salary deprivation, permanent government job for all trained nurses, and termination of administrative torture. It was also conveyed that if measures were not taken within seven days nursing employees would be compelled to take resort to greater movement.
Further on 14 July last, through a press conference the ‘Nurses’ Unity’ once again informed the respected Chief Minister, Health Minister and other officers and also the people at large of renewal of the movement. Not getting any response from the Chief Minister, the nursing employees were compelled to hold sit-in-demonstration at SSKM hospital on 26 July last.
Without neglecting service to the patients, thousands of nursing employees from different districts participated in the sit-in-demonstration which continued for seven days. Then a rally of over 10,000 nurses was organized. Feeling the pulse of the movement and unable to deny its legitimacy, a discussion was organized. But nothing had happened. On 6 August, another huge procession was organized. Finding the nurses unbending, the health minister met the movement leaders and said that the file was sent to the Pay Commission on 31 March, 2021 and results would come within 3 to 4 months.
In view of this definite assurance, the movement was withdrawn. But it has created an indelible mark in the history of nurses’ movement and strengthened their unity and resolve.