‘108’ ambulance stir: Govt hints at invoking ESMA

Bhubaneswar: Putting emergency health services under severe strain, workers of 108 ambulance service staged a dharna near Lower PMG square here on Friday demanding fulfillment of their seven-point charter of demands.

The demands include payment of minimum guaranteed wages, 15 per cent annual increment and construction of rest houses for the employees.

“We are being paid wages only for eight hours while we are actually working for 12 hours. Government had issued a gadget notification on July 4 last year over our demands. But the company did precious little for us. We demand that the government should intervene to resolve the issue failing which we will continue our agitation,” a striking employee said.

“We should be paid at least Rs 9,000 instead of Rs 6,000. We are also protesting the company’s move to effect ‘payment as per gradation’ system,” he added.

Meanwhile, the state government appears to have toughened its stand on the strike with Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak hinting at invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) if the agitating staff did not back off.

“The government is well aware about their problems, which is under consideration. I appeal to them to call off the strike and resume work,” the Health minister said adding ESMA may be invoked, if required.

“As per our knowledge, the company has hiked their salary and has taken measures to fulfill their demand. Despite this, if they try to affect the health care, strict action will be taken,” Nayak pointed out.

On Wednesday, employees of the 108 ambulance service had staged protests wearing black badges in front of Collector’s offices in districts. They had also staged a protest at Lower PMG square demanding fulfillment of their demands.

Following the strike, the Health Minister and Chief Secretary AP Padhi had discussed with the district collectors and SPs via videoconferencing possible measures to meet the situation that could arise out of the strike of the 108 ambulance services staff on Wednesday.

“The district collectors have been asked to make alternative arrangements to meet the crisis arising out of the on-going strike,, the Health minister said.