Unilever Nepal factory shuts
Kathmandu, August 17:
Fearing attacks by Maoist insurgents, an Indian joint venture Unilever Nepal closed its factory in Makwanpur district indefinitely from today. The 13-year-old multinational in which India’s Hindustan Lever holds 80 per cent of the share capital, totalling Rs 92 million, decided to take the drastic step following a communiqué from the underground rebels about a fortnight ago asking it to fulfil their 15-point demands or face a forcible closure.
Unilever Nepal, which has in the past faced several bomb attacks by the guerrillas, reportedly issued an internal notice of closure to employees this week, saying since the demands could not be met it was suspending all operations indefinitely from today fearing the safety of workers. Though the threat to the Multi-national companies (MNC), which employs about 135 workers at its factory in Basamadi of Makwanpur district, started hitting the headlines last week, so far the government has not made any public assurance of safety to the threatened joint venture.
Earlier, the official trade union of Unilever Nepal, the Nepal Independent Chemical and Iron Employees’ Union, had been making appeals to the National Human Rights Commission and other rights organisations that have mediated with the rebels in the past to urge the guerrillas to withdraw their threat. The trade union wing of the Maoists, the All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF), issued the warning to press for the fulfilment of their 15-point demands. These include reinstatement of workers who were “relieved due to the contraction of the business volume of the company”, expulsion of foreign workers and a 25 per cent salary increment every two years.
FNCCI has asked the pro-Maoist All Nepal Workers Association (ANWA), Makwanpur branch to withdraw its ultimatum. FNCCI stated that the ANWA’s threat to close down the industry has no logic, after the Unilever management’s clarification on their demands. The closure of the industry will not only affect the national economy, but also hits 1,500 workers and their dependents, says a statement. — HNS