Kathmandu, April 21
The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) has been mulling over revising the service fees of manpower agencies for effective implementation of ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision and has told manpower firms that the government will strictly monitor the firms and take action as per the law if any are found to be violating the rules.
Along with the government’s move, the dispute between the MoLE and manpower agencies may finally be drawing to an end, with the latter agreeing to effectively implement the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision. During discussions held today, however, the manpower agencies have demanded moderate hike in service fees from the existing Rs 10,000 to implement the provision, which was introduced by the earlier government.
The talks between the manpower firms and the MoLE today were held in the presence of Minister for Labour and Employment Deepak Bohara. In the meeting, Minister Bohara asked the manpower firms to implement the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision effectively without cheating the outbound workers.
Prem Katuwal, former president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) and one of the members of the talks committee formed by manpower agencies, informed that the manpower firms pledged to implement the provision effectively if the government moderately increases the service charge.
“The current service charge is very nominal and we have requested the government for a moderate hike in the fees, so that manpower firms can engage in promotional activities in labour destinations to bring demand from there,” said Katuwal.
Review of service fee is the last sticking point in talks.
The earlier government had enforced the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision in July last year. The rule states that manpower agencies can charge outbound workers leaving for six Gulf countries — Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman — and Malaysia a maximum of Rs 10,000 as service fees.
As per the law, the manpower firms that are unable to bring visa and tickets from hiring firms in the aforesaid Gulf countries and Malaysia are restricted from applying for pre-approval for the selection of workers from the Department of Foreign Employment. This basically means the hiring firms in the said labour destinations have to provide visa fees and ticket fare for the workers.
Minister Bohara said that the government wants to effectively enforce the provision to safeguard outbound workers who have been making significant contribution to the economy through remittance.
Citing the context of police raid on manpower companies in the last week of February, he also urged the manpower firms to maintain transparency regarding service fees. The police had raided some manpower firms based on the complaints from outbound workers that the companies were charging higher amount from job aspirants but providing them receipt of only Rs 10,000.
“By engaging in such ill-practices, manpower companies will be evading tax on one hand and cheating foreign job-seekers on the other.”
According to Katuwal, the manpower firms and government have decided to continue the discussion regarding the service fees and best practices of other labour sending countries in the next round of talks, the date for which is yet to be decided.
The government in neighbouring India allows labour sending firms to charge up to INR 20,000 or 45 days of salary, whichever is less, as service fee from workers.
Prior to sitting for the next round of talks with the manpower agencies, the MoLE is also preparing to consult with remittance companies, representatives from trade unions of various political parties, airline companies and other concerned ministries and stakeholders.
Manpower firms were in protest since the first week of March by suspending all operations following the police raid. They resumed operation from the beginning of April as the government invited NAFEA for talks.
A version of this article appears in print on April 22, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.