Three-day strike by class III and IV workers may affect health services

The class III and class IV workers attached to the State government will be on a three-day strike from Tuesday. Besides government offices, hospitals across the State are bound to take a hit in terms of day-to-day paper work, cleanliness, basic upkeep, patient movement, and nursing care.

What they want

Among the demands of the Class III workers are implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission, increase in retirement age to 60 from 58, and five-day week. On the other hand, the class IV workers are seeking filling of vacancies, jobs for children or wife in the event of husband’s death while on duty, promotion based on further education, and five-day week.

There are more than 10 lakh class III and IV staff of which nearly six lakh are in Mumbai. In the State hospitals, about 1.75 lakh staff members are from such groups, of which approximately 35,000 are in Mumbai hospitals. The class III staff consist of clerks, staff nurses, while the class IV staff members consist of sweeper-cum-servants, lift men, security guards, and peons.

“In hospitals, a ward has nearly 40 patients with only one class IV worker to serve food and do other work. The eight-hour duty has become stressful. The existing staff are overburdened while there are many vacant posts,” Umesh Ghosalkar, joint secretary, Maharashtra State Class Four Employees Association, said.

Class IV staff are essential for hospitals as they ensure the basic cleanliness. “They are infamous for absenteeism, alcoholism, and bad quality of work. Their unions are very strong. But the fact remains that without them, hospitals, that are already bad in terms of cleanliness, become worse,” a doctor with a State-run hospital in the city said.

JJ Hospital’s dean M.B. Tayade has made arrangements for 30 temporary sweepers, some private drivers for ambulances, and home guards.

“All our undergraduate and postgraduate students will be at work. They will also take care of food distribution in wards. Lift will be operated automatically. We have made all the necessary arrangements if the strike goes on for three days,” Dr. Tayade said.

Govt. assures decision

The gazetted officers who fall under class I and II were also planning to join the agitation with similar demands. However by Monday evening, the government assured them a decision on the interim salary hike for 14 months and the seventh pay commission, and they agreed to call off their agitation. The class III and IV unions, however, remained adamant on their decision.

Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said some of the demands raised by the employees may have long-term social impact, and the government would like to deliberate on them before taking a decision. The minister said one of the two unions had agreed to withdraw the strike, but the other one is being pushed to go ahead with the protest by some vested interest in the current political climate.

“At a meeting with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, both the unions had agreed to withdraw the strike. But now we have been told at least one will go ahead with it. It is bound to have some impact on public life and the government functioning, but we are trying to hold further discussions with them,” Mr. Mungantiwar said.

He said the government has no issues with the five-day week and paying the Seventh Pay Commission, but the decision related to the retirement age increase could lead to social unrest.

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