Nepal | September 27, 2020

Pandemic threatens to upend labour relations

Workers term employers’ decision to cut staff, wages ‘unilateral’ and ‘unacceptable’

Sujan Dhungana
Share Now:

Kathmandu, May 20

Labour relations in Nepal, which was claimed to have improved in the recent years, especially after introduction of new Labour Act in 2017, has started deteriorating with the unfavourable circumstances brought on by the outbreak of coronavirus.

The entire economy has pretty much been at a standstill after the nationwide lockdown was imposed almost two months ago to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With most industries shut while the lockdown continues to be extended, employers have not only started reducing their workforce but also slashed the salary/wages of their staffers, which has hit the livelihood of both formal and informal sector workers.

Against the direction of the government to industries to issue full payment to workers throughout the lockdown period, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) — the largest umbrella body representing the private sector — has already notified the government that businesses will not be able to pay more than 50 per cent of the monthly salary to workers during this period.

Meanwhile, Hotel Association of Nepal — the representative body of tourist standard hotels in the country — has already declared that hotels across the country will be shut till November and merely 12.5 per cent of the workers’ basic monthly salary will be paid till then.

Workers in the country have expressed outrage and said such moves threaten to regress the employer-employee
relationships. Representatives of different trade unions have said that decisions of industries and businesses to reduce workers’ salary and cut down staffers are unacceptable as these decisions were taken unilaterally.

Puskar Acharya, president of Nepal Trade Union Congress, said that the unilateral decisions on salary payments and staff cuts taken by the industries have started to adversely affect their cordial relationship with workers.

“Thousands of workers are risking their lives so that various industries can operate partially,” said Acharya, adding, “In such a context, unilateral decisions of industries related to workers can have lasting negative effects.”

Meanwhile, Ramesh Badal, vice president of General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), said that employer-employee conflict is natural during such crises. “However, both parties should come together for an amicable solution once the lockdown is lifted,” he said, further imploring employers to remember this crisis will not last forever.

Officials at the Ministry of Finance reiterated that industries should make full payment to their staffers during the lockdown as the government has assured subsidised loan facility to businesses affected by the crisis and also announced to provide workers’ contribution to the Social Security Fund.

However, business owners say that they are not in a position to even pay half the salary of their staffers during the lockdown period.

“Most businesses have been completely shut since months and are on the verge of collapse. Hence, they are neither in a position to sustain workers nor to fulfil any other financial and tax liabilities to the banks and financial institutions and the government,” said Bhawani Rana, president of FNCCI. “Adequate and effective relief package from the government is crucial to sustain businesses and workers.”


Negotiation is the only solution: ILO

International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said that workers and employers should hold dialogues and reach a consensus to address the disrupted labour relationship during this crisis.

“Neither the government nor agencies like ILO can provide readymade solutions for labour issues resulted by the COVID-19.

The two parties should hold repeated consultations and dialogues and ultimately reach a middle ground and ensure that labour relationship is intact today and tomorrow,” said Richard Howard, director at ILO office in Nepal.

As per him, these parties should figure out a win-win solution for both parties while the government should create an environment for negotiation and facilitate both the parties through necessary policy guidance.


A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 21, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

BPKIHS confirms another death from COVID-19 on Saturday

DHARAN: BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan has confirmed another death due to Covid-19, on Saturday. The 63-year-old man from Rajbiraj Municipality-3 in Saptari district died at 1:15 am during the course of treatment, according to Dr Nidesh Sapkota at the hospital. He said the eld Read More...

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 32.46 million, death toll over 985,000

At least 32,467,949 people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 985,007 people have died, a Reuters tally showed. India reported 86,052 new coronavirus cases on Friday and was set to overtake the United States by next month as the world's worst-affected na Read More...

1,207 new cases take Nepal’s coronavirus tally to 71,821 on Saturday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s coronavirus tally moved to 71,821 as 1,207 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours. As many as 1,147 people that had earlier contracted Covid-19 tested negative for the infection as per the Ministry’s latest data. So far, 53,013 people have recovered from the dise Read More...

Eight Covid-19 fatalities registered on Saturday, death toll advances to 467

KATHMANDU: Eight more individuals diagnosed with coronavirus infection have succumbed to the disease, the Ministry of Health and Population confirmed at its regular media briefing on Saturday. All of those reported dead were males. Details of the deceased individuals 66-year-old male, Sap Read More...

Dhangadhi Sub-metropolis continues providing free food to returnees from India

DHANGADHI: Dhangadhi Sub-metropolitan City has been providing food and hygiene kits free of cost to Nepalis returning home from India via Trinagar border checkpoint since March. The Sub-metropolis has been providing food for Nepalis who are tired after a long journey from India since the time Read More...

Nepal COVID-19 Update: 1207 new cases, 1147 recoveries, eight fatalities recorded Saturday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. As of today, 978,204 tests through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method have been carried where Read More...

Bajura's Himali Rural Municipality opens rafting in Karnali River

BAJURA: Himali Rural Municipality of hilly Bajura district has started the operation of rafting in Karnali River targeting domestic and international tourists. According to ward chair Gobindra Bahadur Malla, the Rural Municipality has started operating rafting from Dhulachaur to Piluchaur for Read More...

Students demand justice for Bajhang rape victim in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 26 Students take to the streets on Saturday demanding justice for a 12-year-old girl whose dead body was found in a temple in Bajhang district on Thursday night. The minor was raped before being killed by the culprit/s. As per local police, investigation into the case in unde Read More...