Eight swine flu lab contract men sans salaries for 16 months

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Amritsar, September 2

Eight employees including three research scientists at Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) and Multidisciplinary Research Unit (MRU) at Government Medical College have not received their salaries for the past 16 months.

Besides the three research scientists, the remaining staff members include one research assistant and four lab technicians. The non-disbursal of salaries has created a serious problem for the employees, as they are not in a position to continue without pay. However, if they decide to quit, it will create problems for the smooth running of the lab.

The VRDL, also known as the swine flu lab, was set up in 2015. It has helped the district health authorities in managing the swine flu cases in a better way, as the reports are made available in lesser time. Earlier, these reports were sent to Delhi or Chandigarh.

The employees concerned stated that they had not received their salaries after April 2016. They were recruited in 2015 after an advertisement was issued for hiring staff and later interviews were conducted.

One of the employees said, “We have been informed that our contract has not been renewed. It is strange because the financial burden of our salaries for five years after our appointment was borne by the Department of Health Research of Government of India.” The employees stated that it had become extremely difficult for them to manage their expenses.

The labs have investigated 27 outbreaks of swine flu and 15,000 individual cases since its inception. The data generated by these labs is also used by the government for making policy decisions in various national programmes.

Another employee said the state department should immediately renew their contract, so that their pending salaries could be released by the college.

An official of the college said, “The salaries cannot be released unless the contract is renewed. Initially, the contract was for one year, but it was not renewed in 2016. The college has the funds but the technicality has to be addressed first.” The official said they were trying their level best to get the matter resolved at the earliest. The contract should have been renewed in routine, as the Indian Council of Medical Research had been funding salaries for the past five years.

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