Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 14:17 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Nepal

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Nepal, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661f18.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 29,300,000
Capital: Kathmandu
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Members of democratic trade unions suffered threats and assaults at the hands of the Maoist trade union members. Collective bargaining is hindered by non respect for the laws regulating it.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Although basic trade union rights are guaranteed, excessive restrictions apply. The right to freedom of association is established in both the interim Constitution of 2007 and the Labour Act, but non-nationals may not be elected as trade union officials. The thresholds for union formation as well as for the creation of federations and confederations are excessively high, and a maximum of four unions are allowed per enterprise. Workers, including civil servants, have the right to join a union and to bargain collectively, and the latter right has also been extended to federations and confederations. However, the right to strike is limited, and the government may stop a strike or suspend a trade union's activities if the strike disturbs the peace or is deemed to adversely affect the interests of the nation. Also, to call a strike, 60% of the union's membership must agree on the action in a secret ballot, and the union must announce the strike at least 30 days in advance. Strikes are banned for workers in charge of security or surveillance teams in a company and for workers in "essential services", which are broadly defined to include sectors such as banking and hotels.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: Nepal saw political instability in 2010. The prime minister, Madav Kumar, resigned on 30 June under pressure from the Maoists, who were demanding a reshaping of part of the government. At the end of December he had still not been replaced and Nepal was still being run by a transitional government. The Constituent Assembly was not able to meet the 28 May deadline to draft a new constitution, one of the most important stages in the peace process. Negotiations were stalled by tensions between the parties over issues such as power sharing and the integration of Maoist fighters into the state security forces. A last-minute deal was, however, reached to extend the mandate of the Constituent Assembly for another year. The many human rights violations committed during and after the civil war remain largely unpunished.

Weak collective bargaining: In most companies, the election of collective bargaining agents is fraught with irregularities. Neither the employers nor the government officials in charge of labour matters take the action needed to ensure respect for the legal procedures. Worker inexperience and employer reluctance are among the many obstacles to the holding of collective negotiations. As a result, less than 10% of formal economy workers exercise their collective bargaining rights.

Threats and attacks levelled against members of democratic trade unions: Members of the ITUC-affiliated organisations continued to face relentless threats and a number of attacks at the hands of members of the Maoist trade union ANFTU (All Nepal Federation of Trade Unions) or the Young Communist League, a branch of the Maoist party. The leaders of the ANFTU union centre recognised they have some difficulty controlling their members on the ground, but have expressed their will to evolve toward a peaceful trade union movement.

The General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) reported, for example, that during the second week of April, Singh Lama, president of its affiliate in the textile sector, was attacked by Maoist trade unionists over his union's refusal to take part in a Maoist party activity. On 21 April, members of the Maoist union vandalised the office of the NICIWU (Nepal Independent Chemical Iron Workers' Union) affiliated to GEFONT. On 6 May, during the general strike, armed Maoists stormed the Gorkha district office of another GEFONT affiliate, the ITWA (Independent Transport Workers' Association), leaving behind a trail of damage. In November, two GEFONT members were dismissed by the management at the Hyatt Kathmandu hotel under pressure from the Maoist union following their refusal to join their organisation. GEFONT took this case to court and secured the reinstatement of its members in December.

The NTUC-I (Nepal Trade Union Congress – Independent) also reported several cases of violence and intimidation by Maoists. The president of its union at the Hyatt Kathmandu hotel, Rajendra Khadga, was forced to become a member of the Maoist union or lose his job. Bipin Sahi, president of the NTUC-I affiliated union at the Radisson hotel in Kathmandu suffered the same fate. Ram Bahu Sah, a member of the NTUC-I at the Triveni Simpex factory in Birgunj was also threatened by Maoist trade unionists when formulating demands on behalf of the workers. The NTUC-I also reported an attack by Maoist trade unionists against several of its members who were taking part, on 10 October, in a trade union activity held by its affiliate, NTHCRWU (Nepal Tourism, Hotel, Casino and Restaurant Workers' Union), at the Himalaya hotel in Lalitpur. Several trade union leaders had to be hospitalised following this assault. A social event held by the union affiliated to the NTUC-I at the Yak and Yeti hotel in Kathmandu was disrupted by members of the Maoist trade union movement.

Judicial rulings ignored and unionists discriminated against: The General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) reported that Khimti Servisage, a firm supplying labour to Himal Power Limited, ignored a court order issued during the first quarter to reinstate two union members, Dhruba Prasad Fuyal and Maghraj Dahal, sacked in 2008.

GEFONT also reported discrimination against its members at the Gaida Wildlife Camp in Chitwan National Park and at the Mahashakti company, which closed down on 13 February.

Teachers Union of Nepal denied recognition: The government continues to undermine the negotiations and agreements concluded with organisations representing teachers, especially the Teachers Union of Nepal. This union is not recognised as such and is denied collective bargaining rights. Over 20 teachers' organisations have been formed since 2006, weakening the trade union movement.

Courts order reinstatement of unionists: Legal battles occasionally succeed in combating the anti-union practices deployed by employers. In July, for example, the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), secured the reinstatement of 13 of its members who had been fired by the Self-Help Development Bank in 2001, shortly before they registered their union. They were reinstated in line with a Supreme Court ruling. In October, GEFONT also obtained a court ruling ordering the reinstatement, with back pay, of Bhim Bahadur, who had been dismissed on false grounds from a women's centre in Lalitpur. GEFONT is convinced that the real grounds for his dismissal was his union involvement.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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