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
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 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.
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'.