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SHILLONG | Oct 08, 2019:

Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Alexander Laloo Hek is expected to convene a meeting with the senior government officials to end the current impasse in view of the indefinite strike of the employees of GVK EMRI who are operating the 108 emergency services in the State.

The employees of GVK EMRI under the umbrella Meghalaya Emergency Management and Research Institute Workers’ Union (MEMRIWU) had gone on an indefinite strike since September 30.

According to sources, the State Government could not convene a meeting earlier, since the Minister had return from Delhi on Monday. “The meeting to be convened by the Minister is likely to be held on Wednesday,” sources informed.

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It may be mentioned that Meghalaya Health and Family Welfare Minister had gone to Delhi last week to attend a meeting. Hek had to be admitted at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi after he suddenly fell ill after landing in Delhi, sources said adding that Meghalaya Health and Family Welfare Minister was discharge from the hospital after his health conditions improved.

Meanwhile, MEMRIWU president, Roypar Kharraswai informed that there have been no negotiations as yet till date nor has there been any communication from the management neither the government side.

Informing that everyday about 5000 emergency calls use to come to the emergency call centers in the whole of Meghalaya, he said that the ongoing strike called by the workers has badly affected those in need of the 108 emergency services.

“We are not here protesting to hurt the sentiments of the people, but as breadwinners, we are fighting for our rights. The ambulance provided has become useless and we are just managing with what we have. The conditions of the ambulance are rusted, stretchers don’t work, no proper latch, no proper equipment, there is a need for new ambulances,” he said adding that the state government has also not kept its promises it made in 2017 of providing them with new ambulances including accommodation (quarters) for the workers.

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“The government is allotting Rs 1.47 lakh for maintenance of the EMRI ambulance per month but the fact is that the ambulances are worst than the municipals trucks carrying garbage,” Kharraswai said.

He said that the demands consisted of 36 demands to list a few- the need for new ambulance and equipment, leave policy to be fair and just, salary and wages, posting and transfer, protocol, interdepartmental promotion, and grievance redressal.

Kharraswai further informed that the GVK EMRI will not face any loss because the employees’ salary is deducted like the last protest that the employees carried out without any uniformity or clarity on why their salaries were deducted.

Informing that the GVK management had also met the employees on October 1, 2019 assuring them a 10 percent increment from April 2019 on the condition that they will not agitate in the future, he, however, said that the worker’s demand for the increment is from 2017.

It may be noted that the EMRI employees have alleged that they are disregarded, with no proper facilities, ambulance, salary, and many other problems, that has left the employees to resort to an indefinite strike.

The workers have also alleged of not receiving their increment and arrear from 2017 and neither their overtime payment from 2011 beside deduction of their salaries for all the strikes, they have carried out.

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Seeking the state government to address their problems and a list of their demands, but the government has taken a back seat and instead prohibited the ongoing strike under sub-Section (1) of Section 3 of the Meghalaya Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1980 (No.23 of 1980), Amendment Act 2003, and in public interest.

It was on September 30 that over 200 field staffs parked their ambulances from their respective bases to the headquarter in Lawmali, Shillong. The union alleged that the management breached the status quo agreement that was brokered by the state government in July 2019.

Meanwhile sources, today informed that the ambulance is owned by the government and they can only be replaced from their end.

The source said, “The reason why they were asked to sign an agreement not to agitate further is because this has disrupted the service to the public who needs our services. The government had clearly stated that if we are not able to provide the services to the state they can anytime terminate us. Since 2008 we have always give increments every once in a year based on their performances. With insufficient funds, we have sought the governments help to assist us financially so that we can pay them according to the minimum wage, but we haven’t received the funds from the government. So the 10 percent offered to them is from the available funds that we have.”

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