Ambulance drivers on strike demand job security

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BANGALORE: Duty calls, but they decided to hold the state on ransom to make their woes heard, by evading duty calls. Hundreds of drivers and paramedical staff of Arogya Kavacha ( 108 ambulance services) gathered at Freedom Park to press for their demands for job security and wage hikes on Sunday.

Although ambulance services across the state remained unaffected, the inconvenience was no less. These drivers and paramedic staff demanded the government for the termination of contract with GVK EMRI alleging the firm of not operating as per the MoU with the government.

“The company is harassing us instead. We all work for more than twelve hours a day, most of us are posted outside our districts and paid a paltry sum pay of Rs 7,000, which is never sufficient considering all the necessary expenses. At times, we have to pay for the repair works done to the ambulances and there is no job security for us, workers are getting sacked easily. And they never heeded our requests,” said N H Paramshiva, vice-president of Karnataka Rajya Arogya Kavacha 108 Naukara Sangha, the union leader.

He added, “The government should terminate the contract with GVK EMRI and raise our pay. Also, the sacked employees should be taken back into service. We have put these demands forward a month ago, but there was no response from either the government or GVK. We have no option but to go for strike.”

Their woes can’t be ignored. Sample this: S Nagaraj, an ambulance driver from Udupi has a family of five including his ailing parents and unmarried sisters. He took up this work four years back, only to feed them and meet the demands of the alliances that come for his sisters for marriage. But he has neither been able to save enough money for their wedding nor is he able to make their living better.

“For the past four years, we are paid the same salary and little increments, despite the hard work and commitment to save lives. We have done our best to avoid this situation as we don’t want the common people to suffer. There is no job security so what should we do?” Nagaraj told TOI.

Paramedics also have no job security and they alleged that the company is treating the employees differently and cheating them. “We regret the inconvenience caused to the people, but we had no choice. When we raised these issues previously, they assured us of positive action. But, nothing was done. As per the MoU, we should be given an off-day for every days of work; instead we are made to work for four days in a row. We work for more than 12 hours; there is hardly any time to spend with the family” said Anuroopa MG, paramedic from Vijaynagar in Bangalore.

When asked about health minister U.T. Khader remark terming it as an internal matter of GVK EMRI, Paramshiva said it is the government that signed the MoU, it is their responsibility to intervene and sort this issue.

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