The Kerala High Court has sought the response of the Kerala Government in a plea challenging a December 2020 order issued by the Malappuram District Programme Manager of National Health Mission directing that the monthly salary of staff nurses be confined to the number of days worked in a month.
Notice was issued by Justice Devan Ramachandran to Kerala State Government, the State Director of the National Health Mission, Malappuram District Programme Manager of Aarogyakeralam, Malappuram Medical College and the Indian Nursing Council.
The petition moved by the United Nurses Association, a registered trade union, assailed the order of the District Program Manager, Arogyakeralam, Malappuram district effectively prescribing that the monthly salary of staff nurses be confined to the number of days worked in a month, with the maximum possible number of working days capped at 27.
The petitioner argued that the same is arbitrary and illegal. Further, it contended that nurses have been selflessly working, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In this light, it was stated that any order that denies them their legitimate salary and leave, is illegal and violative of natural rights.
“It has been acknowledged by Central and State ministries that the hard work and selfless service provided by India’s health workers, including nurses and midvives, have no doubt contributed to the country’s impressive recovery rate. Nurses are important in managing a health crisis because they are a vital link between the patient and the rest of the health care team. To combat COVID-19 the first line of defense in battling such a pandemic is the Doctors, nurses and the medical staff who are the most vulnerable to fall prey to the virus, while protecting others from it. Yet denying staff nurses the legitimate salary and leave which they are entitled for is illegal and violative of natural rights,” the petition said.
The plea also pointed out that an earlier directive allowed staff nurses an entire month’s salary if the nurse had worked at least 26 days in a month. However, this order was never acted upon, the petitioner claimed.
Owing to the new order, nurses, who were at the frontline of Covid-19 care last year, were compelled to work the entire month without leave in order to receive salary for at least 27 days.
Adding on to their grievances, the staff nurses were not being paid their salaries in a timely manner, the petitioner-association alleged.
Moreover, the salary allowances for the period between October and December 2020 have not been disbursed.
In this light, the petition sought quashing of the order issued by the Malappuram Aarogyakeralam District Program Manager confining salary to actual number of days worked.
It also prayed for implementation of an earlier order mandating an entire month’s salary to staff nurses as well as disbursal of salary by the first week of every month.
The petition was moved by President of the Petitioner Association Jasminsha M through advocates John Mani V, Sriram Parakkat, Jayant S, Jackson Johny, Varghese Sabu, Sethulakshmi KK, and Gayathri Menon.
The matter will be next taken up on March 10.