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Workshop Report on the Role of Trade Union in New Constitution

Organised by TWARO

(29-30 May) Biratnagar, (1-2 June) Hetauda and (3-4 June) Butwal


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal Office in association with TWARO Council Nepal organised workshops on the Role of Trade Union in the New Constitution in Biratnagar (29th -3oth May), Hetauda (1st-2nd June) and Butwal (3-4th June). The workshop drew participants from different sectors such as garments, spinning, cement, and embroidery and leather industries. There were also participants from the informal sectors like agriculture, rickshaw pullers and construction workers. Participants, mostly, were the leaders of the Trade Unions in the local organisations affiliated either with GEFONT or with NTUCI-I.

There were altogether 34 participants in Biratnagar out of which 10 were women participants, in Hetauda there were 32 participants, out of whom 14 were women participants and similarly in Butwal there were 36 participants, out of which 13 were women.

The main thrust of this seminar was to develop leadership skills and provide basic trade union education in the local level organisations within the rapidly changing political scenario of the country. In all three places, participants were trained on current situations of the trade unions, national economy, the state of factories/industries in the country, the political realities of the state and overall situation of workers in Nepal. The programme was aimed to design strategy to improve working environment of the workers by ensuring their rights in the upcoming constitution so that every Nepali worker could live with a dignified life?

The Proceedings

The workshop covered various issues such as 'gender equality' in workplace. Training on Gender related issues were conducted by the female trainer in all three places. In Biratnagar, Ms Aruna Thapa from GEFONT, in Hetauda Ms. Geeta Karki from GEFONT and in Butwal Goma Devi Adhikari from GEFONT conducted training sessions on Gender Equality. In all three places, Mr Keshav Duwawi from TWARO Council introduced the TWARO and its organizational structure, Mr Yubraj Lama from NTUCI conducted training on "leadership". Mr Amrit Lal Joshi from NTUCI and Mr Bidur Karki from GEFONT discussed about the role of Trade Union and their activities in Nepal in Hetauda and Butwal respectively. In All three places, Chandra D. Bhatta discussed about the overall conditions of workers in Nepal and future strategy to improve their situations.

All these topics are very relevant in the context of Nepal. On the issue of gender equality, in many places it was revealed that the industrialists tend not to hire female workers as they need to be given extra holidays as compared to the male folks. There is still great deal of variations in wages between male and female workers for the same nature of job. This has to be discouraged in the days to come. Questions were also raised on the security of the female workers during the night (shift).In all three places woman participants were of the gender gap can only be balanced when ' male workers' play more significant role. Majority of the participants (in all three places) were of the view that most of their problems are directly linked up with the state and unless and until the political situations do not improve and peace is not established, their problem will not be resolved.

Participants complained that the unholy connection between the trade union leaders and political leaders have put their problem under the carpet. Leaders of the trade union should stay closer to the workers. Though, trade union leaders' modus operandi is different than that of political leaders but most of the time they, too, are found to have been playing with the issues of labour merely to protect their own positions. One Mr. Tanka Neupane from GEFONT said that we should focus on class movement rather than ethnic movement to resolve our problems. This can be d one by respecting the 'castes' while, at the same time, granting rights to the 'classes. He also said that trade union in our country are led by the political parties whereas it should have been the other way round, that is, political parties should have taken the agendas of trade unions.

In all three places, participants have expressed to have solidarity within the trade unions to ensure their rights rather than having different unions on the basis of political ideology. They have demanded that social security of the workers should be duly enshrined in the new constitution and mechanism should be developed to implement the policy of social security.

They have also discussed about the challenges brought about by the new technology which is replacing man with machine thereby risking the future of workers. Another problem participants have brought into fore was that majority of the industries in Nepal are run by the non-stake holding classes who are just engaged in making profit but not re-investing that profit for the expansion of industrial base. In contrast, majority of the investors are siphoning off large amount of money outside of the country. State should make a policy so that capital can be mobilised within the state for the purpose of industrialization it is because only industrialisation can resolve the daunting problem of unemployment. The service industry that has recently mushroomed in the towns cannot serve the broader welfare of the society. Neither it can embrace the wider workforce nor is it tied up with national economy. It can only serve the urban elites who are more involved in consumption than production. Under these circumstances, there is no way that it can uplift people out of poverty nor can it contribute towards state-building process. Hence our policy should towards industrialistion and mobilise capital accordingly.

Another striking point that is contributing deficit towards industrial relations in Nepal is that the frequent industrial action taken up by various trade unions merely to serve the interests of political parties has resulted in the regular strikes lock-ups and in many circumstances forced investors to close down the industry. This has repeatedly threatened the future of workers as well as industries. So many participants demanded that in the upcoming constitutions government should come up with policies that guarantee security to the investors as well as workers.

Conclusion

The trade-union basic education is important for those who are working in peripheral areas because majority of the participants are not aware of about their rights and responsibilities. Most of the participants have demanded for similar types of training in the future as well. Participants raised some of the very valid question which needs to be addressed by the state. Trade union alone could not resolve these issues - it can only work as 'mediator'.

 
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