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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 of Nepal.

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 corridor.

Some of the participants were very much critical about the working style of trade unions. They blamed that, in the context of Nepal, it’s 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 [B’Nagar] opined that this programme is very good and we have learned so many new things from the training.

Conclusion

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.

 
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