A section of nurses attached to private hospitals, who were planning to go on a statewide indefinite strike from July 17 demanding higher wages, today decided to put the proposed agitation on hold till July 19, following government intervention. Members of the United Nurses Association (UNA) said the decision was taken at their state committee meeting after the intervention of the Chief Minister's Office. "Our demand is that the Supreme Court directives with regard to the salary hike of nurses are implemented. We are not ready for any compromise on this," UNA president Jasmine Shah told reporters. "We have put the strike on hold till July 19.
If no decision is taken by then, we will go ahead with the agitation," he added. Welcoming the decision, state Health Minister K K Shylaja said the government had requested the UNA to call off the strike as the nurses' service was an essential one, especially in the wake of the viral fever and dengue outbreak in Kerala. However, the nurses associated with the Indian Nurses Association (INA) said they would continue their agitation. INA leader Muhammed Shihab said the CMO did not call on them, though they were prepared for talks with the government. "We are on strike since June 28 and we will continue with it. The chief minister's office has not got in touch with us," he added. The Kerala High Court had yesterday restrained the nurses' associations from going on an indefinite strike, on a petition filed by an association of private hospitals. The petitioner had submitted that the nurses' work came under the purview of essential services and sought that the provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) be enforced against those on strike. The functioning of private hospitals in Kerala is likely to be hit with an estimated 80,000 nurses deciding to go on an indefinite strike from July 17. The strike call was given by the UNA and INA, demanding minimum wages of Rs 20,000 for nurses as fixed by the Supreme Court. The managements of private hospitals have said they would be able to provide only emergency services from Monday in view of the strike call.