Service fees of manpower firms not be hiked soon

Kathmandu, September 19

Despite intense lobbying from foreign employment agencies to revise the service fees, the government has made its stance clear that it does not plan to revise such charges in the near future.

A joint team of the government and Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) —the umbrella association of the foreign employment agencies — formed in March following the protest of the manpower firms against police action had recommended increasing the service fees. The fees have been capped at Rs 10,000 since June last year when the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision was introduced.

However, the government has expressed doubt that the manpower firms will not swindle money from foreign job aspirants even after the service fees are increased.

Prior to fixing Rs 10,000 as service fee for manpower firms to send labour to the Gulf nations and Malaysia in June 2015, the government had allowed the manpower companies to charge up to Rs 80,000 for sending job-seekers to Malaysia and Rs 70,000 to send labour to Gulf countries.

“The government is not convinced that manpower firms will abide by the instruction of the government after the service fees are increased,” said Govindamani Bhurtel, spokesperson for Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE). The government’s hesitation is backed by prior experience in which the Department of Foreign Employment had settled a lot of cases before the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision was introduced, in which the manpower companies were found to be over-charging the foreign job aspirants.

The government can reconsider the service charge limit only when a new law for better regulation of the foreign employment sector is introduced, according to Bhurtel.

The MoLE is in the process of amending Foreign Employment Act to address the overall issues of the foreign employment sector.

“We can consider modest increment in service fees as demanded by foreign employment agencies only after we have stringent laws in place that would allow penalising manpower firms like scrapping their licence and liquidating the company if found guilty,” Bhurtel stated, adding, “For now, the government has no plans to revise the service fees.”

But the NAFEA has said that they cannot bind all the manpower agencies through their code of conduct till the government revises the service fees.

Many foreign job aspirants have lodged complaints again manpower companies for swindling money from them. The International Relation and Labour Committee of the legislature parliament also recently instructed the Department of Foreign Employment to halt the pre-approval process of security guards, after receiving complaints of job-seekers being over-charged, until a house panel submits its report on the matter.

In February, the police had raided and sized the documents from few manpower firms on charge of swindling money from foreign job aspirants. In response, the manpower companies had suspended their operations for around a month before finally sitting for talks with the government. A joint team was formed for the talks and to submit its report to MoLE leadership after holding consultations with wide range of stakeholders. NAFEA has been asking the government to implement the recommendations of the report.

“The report has recommended the MoLE to raise the service fee equivalent to one-month salary of the workers, which is the practice followed in India, the Philippines and other countries” said Prem Katuwal, former president of NAFEA and one of the members of the joint committee.

Bilateral labour agreement with Jordan

KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) has forwarded the draft of bilateral labour agreement with Jordan to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for comments. After incorporating the comments, the MoLE will send the draft to the Cabinet. MoLE will be able to sign BLA with Jordan after Cabinet’s go-ahead.