Wednesday, February 21, 2024

108 EMRI workers go on strike, demand management’s ouster

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SHILLONG, July 18: Members of the Meghalaya Emergency Management and Research Institute Workers’ Union (MEMRIWU) began their indefinite strike from 4 pm on Monday.
The union went ahead with its cease-work 72 hours after the deadline to terminate the contract with GVK EMRI for operating 108 ambulance services in the state.
The members of the MEMRIWU had met National Health Mission (NHM) mission director, Ram Kumar to discuss their demand for terminating the contract with GVK EMRI.
The union’s adviser, Roypar Kharraswai said Kumar failed to give any assurance on their demands.
He said Kumar told them that they will have to wait for Health Minister James PK Sangma to return from his foreign trip by Sunday.
Kharraswai said they had agitated last year after the contract with GVK EMRI ended on March 31, 2021.
“The one-year extension of the contract with the company ended on March 31, 2022. The government again sought time of three months which ended on June 30 but nothing was done,” he said.
Kharraswai said they are not going to withdraw their indefinite strike until the government terminates the contract with GVK EMRI and takes over the responsibility to run the 108 ambulance services.
He said the state government and the health minister should be held responsible for the inconvenience caused to the general public due to their strike.
“We are not in favour of the extension of the contract to the private firm. We have realised that a private prioritises profit and will not be bothered about the welfare of its employees,” the MEMRIWU adviser said.
He said the union got information that the state government released Rs 12 crore to GVK EMRI to run the ambulance service. He said the firm did not invest anything and the assets it uses belong to the state government.
Kharraswai said the state government can easily run the service with the amount allocated to the firm besides taking care of the welfare of the staff of the 108 ambulance services.
“We can provide the expertise to run the service. We are confident that the state government would be able to run this service in a more effective manner as compared to the private firm,” he said.
He said the management has failed in providing quality health services.
“Even the employees are suffering due to the poor management,” Kharraswai said.
The GVK EMRI management said the strike is illegal as the union had not served a notice to it 15 days in advance. Neither the Labour department nor NHM was given notice, as required by law, it said.
A GVK EMRI executive, who do not wish to be identified, said they have served the people of Meghalaya for more than 13 years and attended to more than 3 lakh emergencies with at least 30,000 lives saved and more than 2,500 deliveries assisted. He also said only 0.3% of the calls have been unattended probably because of multiple calls landing at the same time.
He said the Meghalaya government has initiated the process for a new tender with the last tender period coming to an end.
“We take this opportunity to appeal to all not to resort to disruption of emergency services to the people in need. Any grievances can be resolved mutually through discussion,” he said.
A GVK EMRI spokesperson said they have sufficient manpower and all ambulances or call centres are manned adequately. The salaries have been released according to the minimum wage notification of the Labour department.
“All allegations made by the EMTs/pilots are baseless and their act is unethical. They are denying emergency service to needy people and endangering lives,” the spokesperson said.

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