108 staff up in arms over work hours

108 staff up in arms over work hours

Trouble continues to brew as 108 emergency services staff and employer GVKEMRI are at loggerheads over number of working hours Resenting employers...

Hyderabad: Trouble continues to brew as 108 emergency services staff and employer GVK-EMRI are at loggerheads over number of working hours. Resenting employer’s attitude and decision to terminate staff demanding eight hours work instead of the current 12-hour shift, employees owing allegiance to Telangana State 108 Employees Union have been boycotting duties from Tuesday 5 pm.

According to Ashok Palle, president of the union, employer had terminated more than 600 employees without proper reasons in last few days. “12-hours of duty every day is taking a toll on our lives. We requested that the management revise shift duties from existing 12 hours to 8 hours, according to Labour department rules.

A strike notice was also given to GVK EMRI and Health Department on this issue on July 24 in which it was stated that employees would attend duties only for 8 hours starting August 11 onwards. Accordingly, staff on duty on that day worked for 8 hours only and boycotted duties from 4 pm to 8 pm. Following this around 600 staff members, including ambulance pilots, technicians and call centre staff, were sacked from duties," he said.

The union said that all the staff numbering over 1,500 are on the same page and supporting their demand for revising working hours to eight. Anji, general secretary, alleged that the management had deployed makeshift drivers, who had no prior experience of driving ambulances, which led to minor accidents at some places.Meanwhile, GVK-EMRI maintained that ambulance services were not affected by the strike as alternative arrangements were made.

P Brahmananda Rao, CEO of GVK-EMRI, said that there was no disruption of services as they have over 400 staff on bench, who will be on standby and ready for duty anytime. Also, help of Health Department was taken which deputed 200 nurses to run ambulance services smoothly and extend any medical treatment to patients while on journey to the nearest hospital.

Commenting on work burden on staff by implementing 12-hour duties every day, the CEO said that 12-hour duty condition was clearly mentioned in the agreement which every employee signs at the time of joining duty. “After employees’ union brought this demand to our notice towards end of July, we asked each employee, interested to work for 8 hours, to give it in written form so that their wage and weekly-offs could be revised accordingly. Time was given till August 3 which was extended till August 5 for employees to submit letters. But none of them utilised this.

The union, on its own, decided to work for 8 hours from August 11 onwards, and hence 620 employees were told to leave," the CEO added. The CEO said that only 600 employees out of the total of 1,560 employees are boycotting duties while the rest, including pilots, technicians and call centre staff are attending work as usual.

The other major demands of 108 staff include withdrawal of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model so that the government can operate the service, treating the services of 108 employees as contract employees, payment of pending over-time bills and inclusion of 108 service employees under the Medical and Health Acts. Under this PPP model between GVK EMRI and Telangana government, over 310 ambulances operate every day across Telangana, shifting patients and accident victims to nearest hospitals after receiving an SoS call on 108 toll free number.

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