• Manpower agencies launch protest, demand high-level commission to study the new provision
• State minister for labour and employment says government won’t give into pressure
KATHMANDU, July 8
The government and foreign employment agencies are at odds regarding the free visa and ticket provision. Irate agencies have started an indefinite strike, whereas the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) is hell-bent on implementing the new provision.
Today, manpower agencies held a sit-in protest at the Tahachal office of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) demanding formation of a high-level commission to study the matter. Despite objection from the agencies, MoLE had implemented the free visa and ticket provision for outbound workers to seven major countries from July 6.
“We are not going to give in to the pressure of some manpower agencies,” said Tek Bahadur Gurung, state minister for labour and employment. “Those who cannot comply with the government decision can shut down their office and should not issue threats and discourage other agencies that have welcomed the decision.”
However, manpower agencies allege that the provision was introduced by Gurung in his vested interest without proper preparation and consultation with labour receiving countries. Based on the newly introduced provision, manpower agencies are supposed to bring demands from seven countries — Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — whereby employers from the said nations will have to bear the cost for free ticket and visa, among others.
“We are not against the new provision but its implementation was abrupt and lacked preparation, which has resulted in risk of losing the quota the country had been receiving,” said Bimal Dhakal, the newly elected president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA). He said that they would continue to protest until the government forms a high-level commission to look into the issue.
After the implementation of the new provision and resulting tussle, manpower agencies are reported to have stopped collecting demands for workers from foreign labour destinations. Similarly, DoFE has stopped accepting applications that lack free visa and ticket for workers. Only 127 permits were issued by DoFE today to send workers and those too were related to the demand received before the new system was put in place.
Gurung said that the government was ready to cooperate with manpower agencies and work hand in hand to promote Nepal’s potential in foreign destinations. “This new provision poses a problem basically for those manpower agencies that bring in the demand only through commission from agents abroad without doing any marketing,” he added.
The seven countries are the major destinations that absorb more than 95 per cent of annual supply of workers from Nepal. Dhakal said that the immature decision taken by MoLE would divert the demand being sent to Nepal to countries like Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka as there was no labour agreement or consultation with the labour hiring countries related to free visa and ticket.
Going by the newly introduced provision, manpower agencies are allowed to charge a maximum of Rs 10,000 per worker only in cases in which employers refuse to give service fee to manpower agencies. As per the previous provision, manpower companies were permitted to charge a maximum of Rs 80,000 per individual for workers leaving for Malaysia and Rs 70,000 from those leaving for Gulf nations.
A version of this article appears in print on July 09, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.