No less, no more

At last, sense appears to have dawned on those concerned to reopen some twenty-five factories in the Birgunj industrial corridor after days of suspended production. The workers had been on strike demanding the differential between the government’s old and the new minimum wage. Recently, the government had announced a substantial increase in the minimum wage. Many owners contended that, as they had already been paying no less than the new rate, the workers should not demand more. But the workers maintained that they were entitled to it, as well as to the dearness allowance as determined by a joint meeting of the FNCCI and eight different trade unions on November 30.

The Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the three major workers’ unions have formed a taskforce charging it with the authority to resolve the dispute within forty-eight hours. Negotiation is the right approach to settling industrial disputes. But this has not often happened in Nepal’s factories. Sadly, such a taskforce is often formed after a long, costly face-off, instead of at the start. Avoidable disputes have led to industrial unrest, sometimes because of the workers’ unreasonable demands, at other times because of management’s intransigence. Some norms of industrial behaviour need, therefore, to be established, and to this end the government, the political parties, the trade unions and the management should all contribute.