KATHMANDU: Regular activities at local bodies have been badly hit across the country as agitating employees there embarked on an indefinite strike today. Earlier, the staffers' unions presented their demands to the government, which failed to address them in the given time.

"The local bodies were closed today, halting all the services there," said Ganga Dhar Gautam, president, Local Body Employees' Union. Emergency services such as ambulance and fire engine were not affected, though, he added.

The employees are demanding trade union rights as well as promotion and recruitment akin to those for civil servants. An indefinite closure of local bodies began on December 15, followed by sit-in in front of Singh Durbar on December 24 and that before the Ministry of Local Development (MoLD) on December 27. The government, then, agreed to solve the problem by January 17, forming a five-member ministerial team and a task force for the purpose.

According to the MoLD, a draft, addressing the staffers' demands, was submitted to the ministerial team. But the team is yet to table the draft at the Cabinet for approval. The team, headed by local development minister Purna Kumar Sherma, includes finance minister Surendra Pandey, law minister Prem Bahadur Singh, public administration minister Rabindra Shrestha and MoLD secretary Krishna Gyawali.

Member-secretary Gyawali said the unions had not exhibited patience and called the strike at a time when the government was preparing to address their demands. "The Cabinet could not approve of the proposal due to the absence of the finance minister, who is on a foreign visit," he said. "As soon as he arrives, the process will move ahead." Gautam accused the government of ignoring their demands. "The draft can be immediately finalised if the government wishes to. The protest will stay until the fulfilment of our demands," he added.

Syangja bears the brunt of agitation

Syangja: Services discharged from local body offices were halted in the district due to the staffers' agitation on Thursday.

Five different unions of the local body employees have been agitating pressing the government to implement the agreements made with them. Earlier, the employees ended their agitation, putting forth a 21-day ultimatum for the government to implement the pact.

Dhakaram Poudel, central deputy chairman, Local Body Employees' Union, said they had resumed the agitation since the government had shown no response even after three days of the expiry of the ultimatum.

Due to the agitation, works in the District Development Committee, Putalibazar and Waling municipalities as well as 60 VDCs in the district were halted today. After locking the rooms of senior officers, the employees staged sit-ins on the lawns for hours.

The staffers have been demanding promotion for those to have served for more than ten years, among others.