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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Nepal

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Nepal, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88933c.html [accessed 21 November 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: 29,950,000
Capital: Kathmandu

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Injuries: 23
Dismissals: 90

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Dozens of trade union members were threatened, dismissed or beaten. Nepali migrants are particularly exploited. The social partners signed an agreement to maintain industrial peace.

Background

The political situation remains unstable. The prime minister, Jhala Nath Khanal, resigned on 14 August, having failed to break the deadlock in the talks aimed at adopting a new constitution. On 28 August, just days before the expiry of the Constituent Assembly's mandate, Baburam Bhattarai, a senior member of the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, became the fourth prime minister in four years. The Constituent Assembly's term was renewed for a fourth time, and it was given six months to come to an agreement on the new constitution. The many human rights violations committed during and after the civil war remain largely unpunished.

The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate, the Federation of Nepali Journalists, have underlined that journalists are increasingly exposed to threats from business and political circles.

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Nepali migrants still severely exploited in the Gulf: An estimated six million Nepali workers live abroad. Around 700,000 of these find themselves in the Persian Gulf States. Every day, 600 migrants leave Nepal legally, whilst another 600 migrate illegally. They are often employed in the hospitality and construction industries, or as security guards and domestic workers. In January, Anti-Slavery International and the ITUC launched a campaign to denounce the severe exploitation they often face in the Gulf. Many fall into the hands of unregulated recruitment agencies, which promise them a better living abroad. They usually have to borrow large sums of money to be able to pay the recruitment agent, only to find themselves being paid half of what they were promised or not being paid at all once they reach the Gulf. With the exception of Bahrain, the sponsorship system remains commonplace across the region. Under this system, migrant workers' visas are linked to one employer or 'sponsor', and in most countries they have no right to seek alternative employment. Combined with the low pay, this practice means that many thousands of migrant workers find themselves trapped in exploitation or even forced labour.

Pay rises and social security in exchange for peaceful industrial relations: The main trade unions and employers' associations signed an agreement in March providing for increased pay and the creation of a social security net. In exchange for this agreement, the social partners pledged to maintain industrial peace for four years, and not to resort to any form of lockouts, closures or strikes that contravene the labour legislation. In 2011, trade unions campaigned to urge the government to ratify ILO Convention 87.

Violations

Two microcredit institutions flout trade union rights: On 10 January, three trade union activists received beatings from managers of Gramin Bikas Mahila Utthan Manch, a microcredit agency. The union secretary was dismissed and five members had their wages suspended for belonging to a union. During the same month, 200 workers from the Swabalamban Micro Finance Development Bank were confronted with acts of harassment by the management, which was refusing to bargain collectively. By the end of the year, the Bank had accepted to engage in a dialogue with the union.

Education sector trade unionist threatened: The General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) has reported that Priya Poudel, vice president of the union at the Budhanilakantha school, was threatened with dismissal on account of his trade union activities.

Police charge on striking workers from Nepal Pharmaceutical Labs: On 28 April, Nepal Pharmaceutical Labs management called in the police, who charged against striking workers with brutal force. More than 20 workers were injured, including ten trade unionists. The strike had been called by the Nepal Independent Chemical and Iron Workers' Union (NICIWU), affiliated to the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT). The union ultimately managed to negotiate an agreement with the management.

Court rules in favour of 133 dismissed workers: On 14 September, a labour court ordered that the 133 workers dismissed by Shanti Sewa Griha after trying to join a union be reinstated and paid compensation. Shanti Sewa Griha is an organisation providing assistance to people suffering from leprosy.

Lock-out at Shangri-La Casino: On 1 December, the management at Shangri-La Casino in Kathmandu staged a 40-day lockout following the registration of a union by its employees. The Nepal Independent Hotel, Casino and Restaurant Workers' Union, affiliated to the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), protested against the lockout to the Labour Ministry.

Himal Power Ltd staunchly rejects social dialogue: On 15 December, in Dolakha district, Himal Power Ltd (HPL) dismissed 89 employees belonging to the Nepal Independent Chemical and Iron Workers' Union (NICIWU), affiliated to the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT). GEFONT has reported that the dismissals are directly linked to the management's refusal to talk to the union within the framework of collective bargaining negotiations. The company has remained staunch in its rejection of talks for many months, in spite of interventions by the Labour Ministry and a labour court. HPL is a joint venture comprising Norwegian and Nepalese investors.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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