After several rounds of negotiations between the AIIMS administration and nurses over the ‘discrimination’ in the Seventh Central Pay Commission, the daylong mass casual leave called by nurses ended with the hospital agreeing to their demands. Nurses returned to work for the evening and night shifts and called off their planned strike on March 27. At 5 pm on Friday, Harish Kumar Kajla, president, AIIMS Nurses’ Union, told the crowd, “The AIIMS administration has accepted our demands. We have decided to call off our agitation… Those who have evening shift, please report for duty.” Kajla said the administration has assured that no action will be taken against those who participated in Friday’s mass leave.
Despite the nurses returning to work by evening, emergency services at the premier hospital had come to a halt during the day, with no operations being performed. Hospital authorities, however, assured the media that the OPD was functioning and that no patient was turned away or discharged.
Hours before the agitation was called off, AIIMS acting director Balram Airan termed the mass leave “illegal” and said such “blackmail and arm-twisting methods” had put “poor patients at risk”. “They are calling it mass casual leave, I think it is mass absenteeism,” Airan said. He added that senior nurses and nursing students had kept the OPD functional on Friday.
Airan also said while the hospital supports the nurses’ demands, the final authorities on the issue are the health and finance ministries. He said he would write to the ministries recommending fulfilment of the demand.
Confirming the same, Kajila said the hospital authorities have given “in writing” that their demands will be forwarded to health ministry with a favourable recommendation. “(Earlier) in the morning, they said AIIMS nurses cannot get more (salary) than nurses at other government hospitals. We asked them how AIIMS doctors are being paid more than other doctors… and recommended the same formula for nurses,” Kajila told a crowd chanting ‘AIIMS nurses zindabad!’
The nurses have been protesting against what they refer to as the retrograde recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission. Their demand is that entry pay grade for staff nurses be enhanced to Rs 5,400 from the existing Rs 4,600 and that nursing allowance be enhanced by Rs 7,800.
“Besides, risk allowance and night duty allowance should be given to all nurses just like it is given to other government employees,” Kajla had said.
AIIMS said most of the long-standing demands of the nurses have already been met – such as nurses being granted study leave to pursue BSc and MSc degrees, and a change in their designations from “staff nurse” to “nursing officers”. However, the hospital said pay hike is something it cannot decide on its own.