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Striking nurses blockade National Highway in Cherthala

CHERTHALA Feb 13: Tension prevailed in front of KVM Hospital, Cherthala, on Sunday, after nurses under the aegis of United Nurses Association (UNA) blocked the National Highway demanding government intervention to end the ongoing nurses’ strike at the hospital.
For the past 175 days, 113 nursing staff have been staging indefinite strike and dharna in front of the hospital, demanding better pay and working conditions, along with reinstating of two of their colleagues sacked by the hospital management.
On Sunday, striking nurses and members of the UNA laid siege to the National Highway. Later, the police intervened and forcefully evicted many, while arresting around 50 protesters.
A. Pavin, unit vice president, UNA, alleged that the police unleashed violence, which left several of their members injured. However, the police denied the charges and said that protesters had been removed after they blocked traffic along the National Highway. They also said that seven police personnel had sustained injuries in the melee.
The nurses said the hospital had not been paying even the minimum wages announced in 2013.
They said the working hours often extended to 10 hours during day shifts and 14 hours on nights. Most nurses had been denied PF, ESI and other benefits and were often fined for trivial reasons, they said.
Several rounds of talks were held, the deadlock could not be broken. Following the failure of the latest round of talks held on February 8, the hospital management said it would not participate in any talks with the UNA.
Nurses in the State under the banner of UNA will observe ‘black day’ on Monday, in protest against the police action. “We are planning to intensify protests. The health sector in the State will be brought to a standstill.
If the issue is not resolved, nurses will strike across all private sector hospitals in the State on February 15,” said, Sujanapal Achuthan, general secretary, UNA. Mr. Achuthan is on an indefinite hunger strike in front of the KVM Hospital since Friday.