Govt, manpower companies refuse to budge
KATHMANDU, July 22
The failure of the government and manpower agencies to reach a common understanding on free visa and ticket provision despite holding repeated talks has hit the foreign employment sector hard. The fourth round of talks that were held on Wednesday also ended inconclusively after both sides continued to hold steadfast onto their respective stances.
The free visa and ticket provision that was implemented with the target of significantly lessening the financial burden of workers eyeing employment opportunities in seven major labour destination countries has irked the manpower agencies. Based on the decision of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), the new provision had come into effect from July 6. Subsequently, the manpower agencies launched their protest and all their businesses have been halted since last two weeks.
“There will be another round of talks on Friday on free visa and ticket issue as the state minister for labour and employment is currently out of station,” said Rohan Gurung, general secretary of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA).
He said that during the talks with MoLE officials on Wednesday, a decision to form a committee to recommend amendments to the Foreign Employment Act 2007 was taken.
An amendment to the Act is one of the demands put forth by NAFEA. The committee will comprise of officials from MoLE, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of Foreign Employment, and Foreign Employment Promotion Board. Similarly, there will be two representatives from NAFEA, the umbrella organisation of foreign employment agencies.
The discussions with representatives of NAFEA has been moving positively as MoLE has agreed to address many other demands, except for cancelling or putting on hold the free visa and ticket system, as per MoLE officials. MoLE has been saying that it cannot be flexible on the free visa and ticket issue as it allows job aspirants to leave for foreign employment at low cost.
The new provision implemented for a few select countries — Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — allows outbound workers to leave the country for employment by paying maximum Rs 10,000 as service fee and that too only in case the employers refuse to give the service fee to manpower agencies. Previously, agencies were allowed to charge a worker up to Rs 70,000 for sending them to Gulf countries and Rs 80,000 for Malaysia.
As a result of the row regarding the new provision and protest of the manpower agencies, the number of outbound workers has come down significantly in the last two weeks. Foreign employment agencies have been saying that the government should at least put on hold the free visa and ticket provision for now and implement it after a study by a high-level committee.
NAFEA General Secretary Gurung said their protests would continue until the MoLE addresses their demands related to the free visa and ticket provision.