Report of Awareness Programme on the Framework
on new labour laws and social security
Organised by TWARO Nepal
27-28 February(Kathmandu), 10-11 March,
Biratnagar(Morang), 12-13 March,
Itahari (Sunsari) & 15-16 March, Birgunj (Parsa)
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office
in association with TWARO Council- Nepal, has jointly organised
workshops on Social Security and New Labor Laws in Kathmandu,
Biratnagar(Morang) , Itahari (Sunsari) and Birgunj (Parsa) district
on 27-28 February, 10-11 March, 12-13 March and 15-16 March respectively.
The two days workshop included participants from Nepal Independent
Worker's Union, Nepal Independent Textiles and Garment Workers
Union, Nepal Independent Carpet Worker's Union, Nepal Factory
Workers Union, Nepal Embroidery Handicrafts and Sewing Knitting
Unions, Nepal Carpet Worker's Unions, and Nepal Garment Worker's
Unions. All these unions are affiliated with GEFONT and NTUC-I.
The program in Kathmandu included officials
from the Ministry of Labour, Dev Raj Dahal and Chandra D. Bhatta
from the FES Office, and Ramesh Badal from GEFONT. The program
was also attained by the General Secretaries of the GEFONT and
NTUC-I (Umesh Upadhyay and Achyut Pandey). The Kathmandu program
was specially designed to glean out the issues related to social
security, labor laws, gender equality and other laws that are
currently under discussion for amendment.
The overarching aim of these there workshops
was to provide learning opportunity to the trade union leaders/workers
at the plant level about the new labour related issues which
is rarely available otherwise. Public awareness plays vital
role in strengthening association such as trade
unions and trainings like this are vital for the trade unions.
Altogether 150 trade unionist (out of which
50 were female) and workers were trained. The training primarily
focused on to educate workers in the plant level and seek their
opinion on the purposed amendment and different labour related
acts/laws such as social security provision, trade union act
(right to association), and gender equality. Participants have
also learned about the current economic and political situation
Chandra D Bhatta from the FES Nepal, Yuba
Raj Lama from the NTUC-I, Dinesh Rai from the GEFONT, Ramesh
Badal, Legal Expoert (from the GEFONT) and Mahesh Baral, Director
(Under Secretary), Social Security Fund, Ministry of Labour
and Transport Management, Government of Nepal, and Tej Prasad
Rijal from the TWARO Council Nepal contributed in the workshops
as the Resource Persons.
Discussion focused primarily on the proposed
social security fund for the all. The social security fund is
currently established under the ministry of labor. Participants
demanded the status of the one percent contribution that is
being deducted from their salary and deposited into the fund.
One participant (Shakuntala Karki) in Ithari enquired do we
get this one percent in return after the retirement
from the work?
Participants also demanded more benefits to
the workers. They have also expressed their concern about the
trend of the salary revision which normally takes play in two
years interval. They have strongly demanded that the revision
of the salary and benefits to the workers need to be carried
out as per the inflation. It should not be time bound.
Ganesh Rawat in Biratnagar demanded for the
education and child care centres in Biratngar-Ithari Industrial
Some of the participants were very much critical
about the working style of trade unions. They blamed that, in
the context of Nepal, its the leaders (TUs) who need the
trade union not the workers. They raised questions about the
transparency in the trade unions. They said that trade unions
make unilateral decisions and do not include real workers/trade
unionist in the discussion process.
Workers are also concerned about the opening
up of more industries in the country so that more people can
get job within the country. Demand was also focused on the integrated
service mechanism on health, education and employment for all
the workers. There is huge division between white color and
color labour. The unanimous voice from the participants was
for the creation of the labour friendly state system. Some participants
even claimed that the workers situation have deteriorated after
1990s political movement, though it ensured some rights and
benefits to the workers.
Finally, there was more demand of the programmes
like this as they provide learning opportunity for those who
work in the factories and plants in the peripheral areas. Shanta
Sapkota in Biratnagar said that workshops like this should take
place even in the villages. Sunita Shrestha [BNagar] opined
that this programme is very good and we have learned so many
new things from the training.
Politics is in transition so are the trade
unions. The weak state of governance in the country has not
been able to enforce various laws. The current economic system
and capital formation process in Nepal are tilted towards state
and do not necessarily support workers. Hence it is, crucially
important to strike a balance between capital and labour in
order to have an egalitarian society in place. In the past,
it appears that workers agendas were sidelined while writing
the constitution not only in Nepal but as a whole of South Asia.
Industrial peace is necessary and industrial peace will only
prevail when there is economic development and healthy relationship
between the labour and employer wherein both view each other
as share holders rather than competitor. For that to happen,
democratisaion of economic power is essential. This means the
gap can only be maintained when policies are made in favour
of poor in order to lift them out of poverty and realise them
the notion of social justice through distributive mechanism.
In the context of Nepal, both the government
and the trade unions has remained mere spectator in front of
the capitalist class. Even those TUs who principally
vowed to work for the class were used as an agent
of globalisation and privatization during early 1990s. This
is partly because political parties take heavy donations from
industrialist and trade union leaders are very close
to political leaders as a result during the collective bargain
they failed to strike a right deal that serves the interest
of the labour. In many instances, industrialists threaten political
leaders, trade unionist and workers to shut down the industry
if they push hard on them. This has also become major problem
for industrialisation in Nepal. The first and foremost objective
of trade union is to maintain the dignity of the
labour. Trade unions can only do so when they become free from
political parties, state and the employer.
Nepal is in the process of writing new
constitution and seminars/workshops like this would enable workers
to raise their voice for the justice which can alone contribute
towards sustainable peace in the country.