Nepal | June 17, 2019

Govt, manpower firms still at loggerheads

Kathmandu, April 5

At a time when the government officials and representatives of manpower agencies are holding discussions to iron out various differences, it seems the two sides are at odds in understanding each other’s stance on the prime contentious issue — ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision.

While Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) has clarified the government will not reverse the ‘free visa, free ticket’ rule introduced since July last year, manpower agencies claim that the government is ‘positive’ in terms of reviewing it.

“The manpower agencies also raised the issue of ‘free visa and free ticket’, but we clearly told them the government will not roll back the provision,” said Govinda Mani Bhurtel, spokesperson for MoLE, regarding today’s discussions. He further said that there was no further discussion on the matter after that.

Bal Bahadur Tamang, former president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), however, claimed the government is ‘positive’ regarding reviewing service fees charged by manpower firms.

“We have proposed enforcing similar rules that prevail in other labour sending countries of South Asia and South East Asia,” Tamang said.

While admitting that the government is looking into the practices in other labour sending countries, Bhurtel said, “But the chances of reviewing the service fees are very slim.”

The government recently invited manpower companies, which had suspended all operations since the first week of March after the police raided some firms in the last week of February, for talks. The confusion has come to light as the two sides are yet to come to a meeting point even though four rounds of talks have been held since Thursday.

As per the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision, manpower agencies can charge outbound workers leaving for six Gulf countries — Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman — and Malaysia not more than Rs 10,000 as service fees. As per the law, the hiring firms from the aforementioned destinations have to provide visa fees and ticket fare for workers.

Currently, the manpower firms are trying to get the government to reconsider the service fees.

As per Bhurtel, the manpower companies that are unable to bring demand for Nepali workers while abiding the already implemented rule can shut shop because the government will not revert its decision.

Tamang informed that the talks between NAFEA and MoLE also focused on the regulation from concerned agency of the government. “The manpower agencies have been alarmed and the agents have felt humiliated by the high-handedness of the police during the raids,” he said.

Police had raided the offices of various manpower companies in the last week of February based on the complaints received from foreign job-seekers that the firms had swindled money from them.

When the manpower firms decided to resume operation from Thursday, they had said that they would only resume partial operation, that is, only initiate the process for final approval of those who had already obtained their visa by March-end till the talks with government conclude.

However, they have also started applying for pre-approval from the Department of Foreign Employment. Manpower firms need to take the pre-approval after bringing fresh demand from foreign companies to start selection process of workers.

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