Funeral workers get wage hike

Kathmandu, October 23

Funeral workers at Pashupati area, who had stopped working for around two hours this morning, resumed their work after the authorities agreed to increase their wages and other benefits.

Pashupati Area Development Trust, the body authorised to conduct all kinds of religious and managerial duties at Pashupati temple, ran into panic after workers halted all kinds of works related to final rituals.

The ghats (crematorium) on the bank of the Bagmati River at Pashupatinath temple is one of the major cremation sites for Hindu Nepalis residing in Kathmandu valley. On an average 25 to 30 bodies have been cremated at the ancient crematorium on a daily basis.

Undertakers, among other funeral workers, who used to receive Rs 1,200 per head for cremating one body, had been demanding the PADT for long to raise their wages.

However, Pashupati Area Development Trust had been turning deaf ears to their demands. The workers were required to give 10 per cent of their total income to the Ghat Service Centre.

The workers, after finding no other ways to make the authorities address their problems, had given an ultimatum a few days ago to PADT to halt all their services for indefinite time.

PADT had taken a prompt action by calling the agitating undertakers at its office to hear their demands.

As per the agreement, the workers who had demanded Rs 2,000 for cremating one body had agreed to receive Rs 1,500, but will still have to deposit 10 per cent of the amount at the trust.

PADT will then add additional 10 per cent to the amount and the total accumulated amount will be given to the workers as Dashain allowance, every year. As per the tradition, PADT charges money from grieving families and pays to the funeral workers from the same. There as many as 49 funeral workers registered with the PADT. Of them, 27 are undertakers.

Wages of other funeral workers, who support undertakers, has been increased by Rs 200.

PADT has also agreed to raise the gratuity from Rs 150,000 to Rs 500,000 for the undertakers who continue to the service for at least 20 years.

Undertakers who work for at least 15 years and were liable to receive gratuity of 50,000 will now receive Rs 300,000.

Retirement age limit of the undertakers has been increased to 65 years from existing 60 years, as demanded by the workers.

“We were forced to go on strike after we were left with no other options,” said Bidur Budhathoki, 62, an undertaker.

Pashupati Area Development Trust has reviewed their wages after nine years.

PADT’s officials said although the money seemed less the undertakers often got same amount of money from the grieving family after cremating a body.

A grieving family of a deceased spends at least Rs 8,000 for cremation and final rites.

Undertakers, who work for 20 years, are entitled to gratuity of Rs 500,000 from PADT