Labour and unrest

Labour unrest in the country has skyrocketed in recent times. The reason might be greater awareness among the workers as to their rights or as a method to intimidate the management concerned. It is true that amicable labour-management relations are the key to national economic prosperity. But, the human resource factor is complex as there are msny factors involved. Yet, the basic problem that the workers always seem to raise is that of their wages and their facilities. In this regard, the government fixes the minimum wage for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers. The idea behind minimum wage is to remove the possibility of exploitation. But the implementation aspect is the key as labour unrest nowadays revolves round trying to make the industrialists or entrepreneurs follow the wage code, or pushing for extra perks or for better working conditions. But in the process, it has gone so far that both business and labour are suffering. Sometimes it is the latter that are going to extreme steps like forceful closure of the workplace and the manhandling of those belonging to the management. But, there are incidents where wrongful expulsion of workers or something like that have also triggered labour unrest. Both types do not fit into the harmonious relatioship that the two are supposed to maintain for their interests and for the country’s economy.

A panacea for the generally less than satisfactory relations between management and labour in today’s Nepal may be difficult to find outright. But efforts need to made at various levels towards a harmonious industrial environment. A Labour Commission has been mooted as being able to contribute towards that end. Unfortunately, the formation of the said commission, which would be the highest authority to solve labour disputes, has not materialised so far. Some have even blamed the government and the industrialists and entrepreneurs for not doing the needful to form the commission. Whatever reasons there might be, it is urgent that the commission be formed, as it would have the authority to fix the minimum wages of the workers and their facilities and to monitor if the International Labour Organisation standards are being adhered to.

The commission would be in the interest of both management and labour because it would be looking into and acting for the welfare of both the parties. In particular, the recent unpleasant incident of the Himalmedia being targeted is a case where the commission could have looked into, had it been formed. In the labour-management relations in Nepal, several things are not transparent which may lead to misunderstandings and later into costly labour unrest. Moreover, the physical violence seen these days at the slightest movement is a dangerous trend that must be halted. As a result, the labour also suffers. The relations between management and labour should be such as may make it unnecessary for them to go to a Labour Commission or the court. They should first try to resolve any problem between themselves in the right spriit. Then comes the question of arbitration and other means. But strike should be the last resort, and physical violence and vandalism should always be shunned.