TOPICS: For a politics-free workplace

After the disruptions at Samacharpatra and The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post, we hope our publisher friends and journalists will read us better when we talk of a “politics-free workplace”. Please do not jump to the conclusion that we are infringing upon the right of citizens to hold individual political beliefs or coming together for a common cause.

All we are saying is that freedom to form associations and unions should not be misused or used to forward political goals and patronise the workplace for politicians to arm-twist the management for their vested interests.

When a political leader entices innocent workers by either dangling a carrot or even intimidating and threatening them, little do these people realise that they are creating a parallel management. In fact, the work force becomes a part of the political party that their union is affiliated with. These employees not only have allegiance to their main job but also have to attend party meetings and be a part of “bandhs” and other activities called by union bosses. Your employees are no more under your management but are controlled from outside.

Whenever there is a strike in a workplace, the sympathy is mostly in favour of the workers because the investors are “profiteers” and therefore “exploiters”. Not many see the hidden hands of the instigators — with whom these trade unions are affiliated. In fact, negotiations are held not with your employees but with the trade union leaders. And the standard dialogue they give to the press: “It is an issue to be sorted out between management and workers. “We suggest a simple solution: If we can only frame our labour law a little differently, we could have the cake and eat it too.

In a democracy, all citizens have a right to form a group to protect their rights. But the law should add “unions, associations, forums and societies would be declared illegal if found affiliated to political parties.” I know eradicating politics by adding a clause in the law is

difficult, but this will at least stop political flags from flying in the workplaces.

Since we in the industrial sector have understood the pain only after becoming victims of “political harassment”, we hope that publishing houses will not misunderstand our effort to throw politics out of the workplace as being a conspiracy to end workers’ rights. When one section of the society is over-protected and the others’ rights are not well defined, it becomes a breeding ground for exploitation by the over-protected lot.

Enough damage has been done by politicians and political parties fingering, arm-twisting and dividing the workforce and investors in different schools, hospitals, hotels, industries and now, even media houses and judiciary, in the guise of labour rights and freedom of association. The current crop of politicians can offer Nepal no bigger gift than a politics-free workplace and a merit-based society for building a new Nepal they so often talk about.

Sakya is ex-president, HAN