Wage row roiling industrial waters

Kathmandu, December 18:

The militancy of trade unions is increasing in the name of minimum wage and permanent or direct appointment, hitting the economy hard.

The dispute in Birgunj-Pathlaiya industrial corridor that saw the closure of over three dozen industries including multinational company Surya Nepal is yet to be resolved.

Despite Maoist minister for Labour and Transport Management Lekhraj Bhatta’s assurances of smooth operation of industries, his own party’s trade union wing All Nepal Trade Unions’ Federation (ANTUF) and the UML-affiliated GEFONT are holding industries to ransom. They have even not spared hotels, having padlocked Everest Panorama Resort since yesterday.

“Such closure during the tourist season will hit the tourism industry as a whole,” said Hotels Association of Nepal (HAN). After the agreement between trade unions and Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), the minimum wage issue was settled but the trade unions have begun cribbing about their own agreement.

The ongoing dispute is a fallout of the vexed minimum wage issue. The government has hiked it from Rs 3,300 to Rs 4,600 (Rs 3,050 basic salary and Rs 1,550 dearness allowance). The government-affiliated trade unions are demanding an across-the-board increase in monthly salary for all workers irrespective of their wages and designations.

“Though they know that their demand is illegal, they want salary increase across the

board,” said a Birgunj-based industrialist who has been crying foul at the unions’ move, dubbing it ‘illegitimate’. But, the stir-hardened unions are firmly standing their ground despite the minister’s assurance.

The trade unions claim that the agreement inked between FNCCI and trade unions inadvertently got distorted in the official Gazette. Though there seems no confusion over the basic salary figure, the problem persists as far as dearness allowance and other allowances are concerned, ANTUF vice-president Badri Bajgain said.

The unions maintain that the Gazette states that ‘salary and allowances will be adjusted’ — instead of salary and dearness allowance. The hike was given after January 15, 2008, as agreed by the two parties on November 30.

Seven trade unions including the Maoists-affiliated ANTUF, UML’s GEFONT, NC-affiliated Nepal Trade Union Congress issued a release stating that the confusion over the

dearness allowance was due to the ‘distortion’ in the Gazette. They urged the government to rectify the anomalies at the earliest to ensure industrial operations and output.

Despite promises, the Maoists-led government has failed to create an investment friendly environment, thanks to the activities of its own trade unions.

“Apart from labour unrest, due to the irregular power supply and frequent highway disruptions industries are facing harrowing times,” CA member and president of Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) Binod Chaudhary said.

FNCCI plea to prez:

KATHMANDU: FNCCI on Thursday met President Dr Rambaran Yadav to apprise him of the problems industries are facing. According to FNCCI, President Yadav lauded their role in the country’s economy and asked the private sector to work more effectively. FNCCI president Kush Kumar Joshi urged Dr Yadav to ensure the creation of an investment friendly environment and the implementation of Public Private Partnership. — HNS