As many as 194 emergency (Arogya Kavacha) ambulance staffers have been sacked from service for staying off work since July 26, demanding job security and better pay.
According to Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI), these employees had been on an “illegal strike” from Day One.
“We had warned them and had given them enough time for reconciliation. But they did not turn up for work. We will recruit employees shortly in their place. The remaining employees have been asked to report to duty as early as possible,” said Jagadish Patil, Head of Operations, EMRI.
EMRI has warned of more terminations if the workers do not call off their strike on Tuesday morning.
Although EMRI had temporarily hired paramedical staff from nursing colleges and drivers from the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation to keep the service running, stop-gap arrangements won’t help in the long run, Patil said.
Regarding the workers’ demands, Patil said he was “not very clear” about them as they were not consistent.
However, the 2,400-odd striking workers, who are members of the Karnataka State 108 Arogya Kavacha Workers’ Association, have said EMRI was trying to break their unity by terminating the services of a few members of the association.
“We have been demanding our rightful wages, but EMRI is not paying us as per the memorandum of understanding it has signed with the government. Moreover, since we are hired on contract, the management just fires us for the slightest mistake. We need job security. We want to be permanent employees of the ‘108’ service and not government employees as it is being misinterpreted,” said R Sridhar, president of the Workers’ Association.
The strike has taken a toll on poor patients. Despite EMRI making alternative arrangements, there have been instances in the last one week where ambulances have reached their destination quite late.
HC seeks govt reportThe High Court on Monday directed the State government to submit a report on the strike by the ‘108’ ambulance staff.
Hearing a petition filed by Dr Kodur Venkatesh, a resident of Jayanagar, the Division Bench comprising Justices K L Manjunath and Ravi Malimath directed the government to furnish a report by Tuesday.
The petitioner stated that the free ambulance service was aimed at protecting public health and safety and that its staff cannot strike work as the services fell under the ‘essential’ category.
The “illegal” protest by the essential service staff reflects the apathy of the government, the petitioner stated.
He urged the court to direct the government to end the strike.
When government counsel R Devdas said the petition was premature and that alternative measures had been taken to ensure uninterrupted emergency ambulance services, the bench directed the government to file a report on Tuesday.
The petitioner also pointed out that alternative arrangements were in place only in Bangalore and people in other parts of the State were left in the lurch.