Maha Govt employees on strike seeking restoration of old pension scheme, CM Shinde urges workers to withdraw strike

Nagpur: In response to the indefinite strike called since Tuesday by lakhs of Maharashtra govt employees demanding restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde urged the protesters to call off their agitation, stressing that the government was positive and sympathetic about their demand.

Speaking in the Assembly, Shinde said one can take an extreme step when there is no scope for a discussion, but in the present case, the government is ready for talks with agitating employees as any decision on the pension scheme will have financial implications. 

“I request them (government employees) to hold a discussion and withdraw the strike. They have to think and discuss the issue with the government and withdraw the strike in view of problems being faced by people,” he said.

Paramedics working in hospitals run by the state government, sanitation workers and teachers also joined the strike at a time when board examinations for Classes 10 and 12 are underway.

The main demand of these employees is implementation of the old pension scheme (OPS). In front of government offices and hospitals, the nurses raised loud slogans for their demands, saying, “Only one mission, restore old pension.”

Also read- Maha Nurses Suspend Strike After Govt’s Assurance To Look Into Their Demands

Not wanting any compromise on the issue, they demanded that the OPS, under which the entire pension amount was given by the government, be restored.

Since 2004, government employees (barring armed forces personnel) have been covered under the National Pension System (NPS), a contributory scheme where the payout is market-linked and return-based.

In response, CM said there was a lot of time for employees who joined the service after 2005, when the National Pension System (NPS) was introduced in place of the OPS, to retire.

“You can decide to go on a strike whenever you want. But it is not necessary to go on a strike today (Tuesday). We also told them (employee associations) that those who will retire before a decision is taken (by the government on OPS) will get full benefits,” the CM said.

Shinde said his government is committed to ensuring employees get a dignified and secured life post-retirement.

“But it is necessary to think about all available options before implementing the Old Pension Scheme and this has been brought to the notice of all employees,” he said.

The CM said after a meeting with employee associations on Monday a decision was taken to form a committee to study the new and old pension schemes. The panel will submit its report in the next three months.

“The government will take a sympathetic view (of employees demand for OPS). There are financial implications of whatever decisions we take and it has to be well thought about. The government has not taken any negative view (of the demand) and a solution will only come through dialogue,” he said. 

Sumitra Tote of the Maharashtra Nurses Association told PTI that its members from 34 branches across 30 districts participated in the strike on Day one. However, government services in Mumbai, including in hospitals, remained largely unaffected.

According to them, the government paid no heed to their earlier strikes. They said despite repeated reminders, the Shinde-Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government did not even bother to have a discussion with the employees regarding their demands. “The government is still to come up with any solution,” they said.

In the state-run JJ group of hospitals, which controls four medical facilities in Mumbai, services were mostly unaffected, said Dr Pallavi Saple, dean, JJ Hospital.

“Major surgeries took place at two of our hospitals. But we have started planning for the coming days. We are roping in nurses from the BMC (Mumbai civic body). We also have nursing students, Class four workers who are on contract,” she said.

Former Chief Minister and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray also came out in support of the agitating employees and said the government should restore the OPS. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already extended support to the OPS restoration demand.

Nurses, ward boys and sanitation staff of Government Medical College and Hospitals, and Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital, both in Nagpur, joined the strike along with employees of the local civic corporation. They also staged demonstrations in Nagpur in support of the OPS and other demands.

Apart from the old pension scheme, the nurses were demanding an extension in the retirement age to 60 years.

The nurses withdrew their services from OPDs and wards. They were working in the emergency and ICU wards only.

Important surgeries suffered due to this strike. Helpers, cleaners and other class-IV staffers also stopped work from 8 am on Tuesday, which created a chaotic situation in government hospitals.

As a result, surgeries at IGGMCH, GMCH, and other government hospitals were postponed as the support staff participated in the state-wide strike. Only those who need emergency treatment are admitted to these hospitals.

In Latur in central Maharashtra, thousands of government employees from various departments marched and protested against the state administration. The march started at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Park and concluded at the old collector’s office, and during the protest, agitators held placards and raised slogans like ‘ Only One Mission, Old Pension.’

Besides the restoration of the OPS, the agitating employees highlighted several other demands, including regularization of services of contractual employees, filling up of vacant posts, benefits of in-service advancement scheme to teaching and non-teaching staff, to resolve financial and service issues of nurses/health workers, give priority to the health department, etc.

The employees resorted to the strike after talks between unions and the state government failed on Monday.

Also read- Nurse Allegedly Creates Ruckus, Protests Naked Outside Sawai Man Singh Medical College, Arrested

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