Arogya Kavacha staff on indefinite stir

Arogya Kavacha staff on indefinite stir

Ambulance drivers, technicians/nurses and communication/despatch officers will participate in the strike under the banner of the Karnataka State Arogya Kavacha (108) Employee’s Union.

Given that the ambulance service receives about 16,000 calls a day from across the State, the strike is expected to cause a lot of inconvenience, especially in rural areas.

In the memorandum submitted to the chief minister, their demands include increase in salary on par with what government drivers and nurses draw, weekly offs, eight-hour shift and provident fund (PF) and ESI cards.

Besides, they want the Government to treat them as government employees. The employees had struck work last year too demanding for a hike in their salary, following which their pay was increased marginally.

“Everyone got a hike of Rs 1,000. But, the salary of drivers was a meagre Rs 5,700 and technician/nurse got only Rs 6,500 a month,” said an employee.

The drivers, who work without weekly offs, are sometimes forced to work for 48 hours non-stop. “We don’t get weekly offs due to shortage of staff. No one wants to take up the job for such a low pay,” he said.

Since November 2008, around 1,600 staff members have quit the ambulance service. A union member said that in some cases, the management had forced people to submit their resignation letters in advance.

They also alleged that the institute had not given the employees ESI or PF cards even though the money was deducted at source under these headings from their salary.

The union has decided to go on strike since their letter listing their demands sent 20 days ago has failed to elicit any response from the management.

D V Badrinath, chief operating officer, GVK EMRI, said they were surprised to learn about the strike from media reports.

“We have no intimation about withdrawal of the service. In the event of any disturbance, we always have a standby arrangement,” he said. Badrinath said the strike may be initiated by some of the former employees or outsiders, trying to disrupt the emergency services.

The union members alleged the EMRI management has threatened to terminate or arrest those who participate in the strike.

CM’s appeal

Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda has appealed to ambulance drivers to immediately withdraw their agitation.

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