A two-day programme on ‘Restructuring and Privatisation in Nepal: Developing Union Strategies for Industrial Policy’ kicked off here on Tuesday.

Privatisation can take different forms in different sectors or countries. After a decade of slow and low level of privatisation of Nepal’s electricity sector, the forms of privatisations that exist currently are leasing out of Nepal Electricity Authority run small hydropower plants, joint ventures with public and private sectors and private sector participation to develop power projects in the country.

Due to these privatisations, the workers fear job security, have increased incidents of harassment by management, reduction in social security and job losses of mainly middle level workers.

“We as unions have to understand and respond to privatisation not simply as an ideological issue but also from the perspective of the changes that will take place at work and amongst our members,” said Dr Govind Nepal, consultant at General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) giving his presentation. “The key issues such as information and monitoring of privatisation, securing a union voice, forming coalition with other unions and making operating system more people friendly needs to be addressed.”

Current estimates by the United Nations suggest that around one-third of the world’s population do not have access to electricity-some two billion people are still dependent on open fires for cooking their food.

“Energy is a basic social need that is essential to promote and improve quality of life, but corporations have translated it into a commodity, which like everything else must be produced and traded for maximum profit,” said Gino Govindar, energy officer at ICEM-Brussels, giving his presentation titled ‘Global Trends in the Energy Industries’.

“The two billion people who still do not have access to the modern energy in any form will remain marginalised if energy policy continues to be driven by profit motive.”

The latest forecasts by the International Energy Association suggest that the world population will grow from six billion at the end of 20th century to around eight billion in 2020.

It is estimated that 90 per cent of the projected increase will take place in developing world, with some 85 per cent of global population living in these countries and be responsible for approximately 55 per cent of the world’s energy consumption.

Ideally this world energy outlook augurs well for the future of energy workers at a global level, providing the catalysts for socially sustainable economic development and the job creation opportunities this brings for workers.

“Whilst, the current trends indicate that traditional energy jobs are shrinking and sub-contracted, non-unionised and unprotected jobs are on the rise placing an enormous responsibilities on our affiliates to not only shaping future energy demand and supply but also ensuring that good jobs are created in the process of development,” said Govindar.

In the face of global energy revolution, with its priorities such as democratic basis for national choice and that unions must be involved and consulted, ICEM’s approach is based on action for social energy.