First All-India Conference of Health Workers Confederation
Chandan Negi

he First All-India Conference of All India Health Employees and Workers Confederation was held successfully at Jabalpur on 9-10 April 2010. About 250 delegates from 62 unions of health employees from all over India participated in the conference. The conference was hosted by All India Ordinance Factories Paramedical Staff Association, Jabalpur. Some of the important unions which participated in the conference were PGI MTA Chandigarh, URMU Railway, NDMCEU, AIOFPMSA Jabalpur, ESIC (Medical) Employees union and unions affiliated to Central Health Employees Federation (CHEF) like Safadarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia, LRS TB hospital, CGHS etc.
Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary, AICCTU was the chief guest at the Conference, which was inaugurated by Comrade S K Vyas, President of the Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers. In his inaugural speech Comrade Vyas pointed out anomalies in the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, particularly with respect to group C and D staff.
In his address, Comrade Swapan highlighted the privatization of the health sector. The UPA government in its second term is vigorously pursuing the policy of opening up the health sector (along with other social sectors like education) to private capital: a policy that is fatal for the Indian people. He called upon the health employees to rise to the challenge and intensify the struggle for People's Health against the Government's drive of reserving the health sector for private profit.
The conference demanded that central and various state governments must stop immediately all steps taken, overtly or covertly, for commercializing/privatizing health services. It also demanded that right to health care must be given status of fundamental right of citizen. The conference unanimously condemned the attacks on democratic rights of citizens, activists and intellectuals by governments and it demanded immediate halt on the reign of terror unleashed on poor and tribal people by government in the name of fighting "Maoism and terrorism". The conference demanded lawful and justified wages and other labor rights to all workers in unorganized sector and an immediate halt to the extreeme exploitation of workers engaged in preparation for Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
The conference also took a decision to organize health workers working under state governments. In the coming days, the confederation will continue to lead the struggle for the issues arising out of adverse recommendations of pay commission, but its main focus will be to fight against privatization of health services by governments. The conference elected a 7-member executive with Com. Ramkishan as General Secretary.
Almost a year back, health unions had decided to form the Confederation, mainly to fight for three demands - to stop outsourcing and contractualization in health services at any level and in any form; to continue patient care allowance for all section of health employees and make it part of basic pay; and to place paramedical staff in PB-II instead of PB-I and form a paramedical council.
Last year, on the call of the Confederation, an all India strike took place which lasted for 6 days. The Government hit back by victimizing leaders and activists. But this has strengthened the Confederation further and the Government was forced to continue patient care allowance on an interim basis. In the meantime the UPA-II Government has started commercialization and privatization of health services on a large scale under its policy of public-private-partnership. The Confederation will aim to expose this policy by forging unity with different people's organizations around the slogan "save public health services".