CATS workers go on strike, ambulance services suffer

Contractual workers fear losing job after privatisation

The services of CATS ambulance were severely hit on Monday with 610 contractual employees going on strike.

Initially, services of 152 ambulances were disrupted. However, later in the day, the government managed to press 25 ambulances in service. PCR vans and individual ambulances from hospitals helped transfer patients.

“There was sabotage in the morning and employees had taken out batteries out of ambulances so that the vehicles could not ply. Twenty-five ambulances were pressed into service between 2 and 3 pm,” said Dr Vasantha Kumar N, Project Director, CATS.

Three people reportedly  lost lives as ambulance could not reach the spots on time after the accidents. “One person in Narela and two in Budh Vihar died after ambulances failed to reach in time,” said a regular CATS employee.

Of the total contractual employees, 240 were paramedic staff and 370 drivers.

The workers were protesting the government’s decision to invite expression of interest (EOIs) for private firms to maintain Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS) ambulances.

The contractual employees protested the move and said they would lose their services if the private players enter the scene. Employees also said their contracts have not been renewed after the expiry of their terms on December 31. Currently, there is no legal status of the employees.

“The government invited EOIs without consulting us. The contracts of employees have not been renewed after December 31 and their future is uncertain. We have asked for a confirmation from the government,” said Surender Chhikara, general secretary, CATS Employees Welfare Association.

However, Dr Kumar refuted it. “We have repeatedly put it in writing that the employees should renew their contracts. They have not done it so far. Also, it has been clearly mentioned in the EOI that the CATS contractual staff will continue under the administrative control of CATS directly and will not lose their jobs,” said
Kumar.

Once private players enter the fray, the manpower will remain the same and only the maintenance services will be disrupted.

If CATS contractual workers continue the strike on Tuesday, their services will be terminated, said Dr Kumar. “We will courier employees letters of termination if they do not join services by tomorrow. The letters have been prepared and the contracts will not be renewed following this.”

“We will also send the Lieutenant Governor a note to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on the contractual employees,” he added.


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