Protest puts LPG supply at risk

Kathmandu, December 19:

Cooking gas consumers may be in for a tougher time from the first week of January. Already, the workers’ strike in Nepal Gas has put them between the devil and the deep sea. Nepal Gas — the main liquid petroleum gas (LPG) supplier — and workers are at loggerheads.

Smooth supply of LPG is hit due to the protests launched by the Nepal Gas unit committee of the All Nepal Industrial Worker’s Union (ANIWU). ANIWU has issued a one-month ultimatum to the management to fulfill the workers’ demands or face closure, the latest weapon of trade unions in forcing the management to yield. Industries are reeling under the labour turmoil across the country.

“We have given an ultimatum of one month, starting December 4,” ANIWU’s Nepal Gas unit president Bhoj Bahadur Thakuri said adding that if the management fails to fulfill their demands, they would go on strike and halt the gas supply. According to ANIWU, an agreement was signed between the management

and agitating workers of eight vehicle contractors last August 17 for appointing workers in Nepal Gas. “It’s two years since, but the management has not cared to abide by the agreement,” Thakuri complained.

According to Omkar Pyasi, advisor to the Nepal Gas Dealers’ Association, a team of representatives from the Federation of Gas Dealers’ Association (FGDA) and Nepal Gas Dealers’ Association had held talks with the management on the issue. “We think the management is quite positive about the demands and the dispute will be resolved soon,” he said.

Nepal Gas has a total of 12 vehicles, of which eight are rented while four belong to the company. Due to the strike by the drivers and helpers of the eight hired vehicles, supply of Nepal Gas is down to almost 25 per cent. FGDA president Gyaneshwor Aryal urged the workers to end the strike and allow smooth supply of gas.

Similar is the litany of woes of Krishna Pashima Art, Khumaltar. The company unit of Independent Textile-Garment Workers’ Union of Nepal (ITGWUN) are on a sit-in strike. The ITGWUN unit is on strike since October 24 outside the company’s premises. According

to ITGWUN, a pact to give workers permanent appointment was signed between the union and the management but it has not been honoured.

The agreement was signed last April 23.

“The management has not allowed us to enter the company premises and has not even given salary since two months. We have notified the Ministry of Labour and also the Labour Office. Now, we are left with no option but to protest,” said ITGWUN secretary Ganga Bohara. ITGWUN also alleged that the the company has not yet provided permanent appointment letters and is trying to shift 39 employees to Matatirtha.

“We have not stopped workers from entering the company premises but we don’t want protests held inside,” said Krishna Pashima Art owner Krishna Kunwar adding that the company believes in ‘No work, no pay’.

Talking about granting permanent appointment letters to workers, Kunwar said the company offered appointment letters to 20 employees. “We are shifting the company and it’s obvious that some employees also will have to go to the new place in Matatirtha. There is 24-hour water supply for the dyeing plant whereas the one-ropani working space used for the dyeing plant here is rented,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gemini Grocer — a supermart at Bouddha — has just resumed operations after 15 days of closure. According to the owner Jagdish Maskey, the dispute with the workers has not been totally settled yet though the store resumed operations. “We are meeting again on December 25,” he said.

The main demand of the workers is the reappointment of a worker whom the management had kept on trial and later sacked.

Maskey said his company had a 240-day trial period system. “If the work is not found satisfactory, the recruit is sacked,” he said adding that he had sacked the employee but other staffers wanted him reappointed. On the other hand, the staffers alleged that they were denied weekly-offs and paid only on a daily basis.