Uproar over holiday for govt staff to conduct trade union elections

Kathmandu, May 27

The government’s decision to declare official holiday for civil servants’ trade union polls slated for Wednesday has drawn flak from all quarters, including former civil servants and experts.

A Cabinet meeting held under Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on April 19 announced public holiday for the government staff for June 1, when an election of government employees’ trade union is being held.

Former chief secretary Damodar Gautam said it was a breach of authority to announce public holiday for election of civil servants’ trade union.

“Those who draw salary from the state coffers have to work in the best interests of Nepal and Nepali people,” said Gautam, who retired from the top civil service job in 1992.

He said a trade union of government employees was acceptable in a democratic society, but such an organisation should only raise demands related to their professional interests or the interests of Nepal and Nepali people.

“It is a crime against the people and the country if you fight elections under political flags, while you are still working for the government,” he added.

At least seven national-level government employees’ organisations associated under the banners of political parties will contest in polls on Wednesday.

Another former chief secretary Leela Mani Paudyal said such an election could have been conducted on any public holiday. He said it was a misuse of authority and could only boost

the confidence of those who always try to defy the system and professional values.

Madhu Raman Acharya, a former foreign secretary and the author of Business of Bureaucracy, said such polls should be held on a public holiday. “Since we have so many public holidays, such polls could have been conducted on any such holiday,” Acharya told THT. He wondered, “When will you work, if you declare a public holiday just to hold a trade union election?”

The government has announced as many as 39 public holidays excluding regular Saturday weekly off this year.

Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi said public holiday was announced for the polling day after the government employees stated they would not be able to turn up for work on that day.

When asked why the election couldn’t be conducted on a public holiday, Subedi said, “The decision is based on a proposal of the Ministry of General Administration. It’s a political decision. If we were authorised to decide, it could have been a different date.” He claimed that service seekers wouldn’t be affected by the decision, as the government had already made a public announcement in that regard.

Tanka Mani Sharma, Secretary, Ministry of General Administration, claimed that if the elections were held on a public holiday, the government staffers might not have reported for work the next day on some pretext or the other.

According to him, there are as many as seven national level civil service employees’ unions with similar objectives. Once the election is held, only one national level authentic trade union will emerge, and the government will only deal with it.