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FES-TWARO Seminar Report on Social Security and Labour Laws

Organised by TWARO

Hetauda (3-4 April), Butwal (5-6 April), and Dhangadi (8-9 April)

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office along with TWARO Council Nepal has organised two-day workshop in Hetauda, Butwal, and Dhangadi on 3-4 April, 5-6 April, and 8-9 April 2012 respectively. The two days workshop included participants from Nepal Independent Worker's Union, Nepal Independent Textiles and Garment Workers Union, Nepal Independent Carpet Worker's Union, Nepal Factory Workers Union, Nepal Embroidery Handicrafts and Sewing Knitting Unions, Nepal Carpet Worker's Unions, and Nepal Garment Worker's Unions. All these unions are affiliated with GEFONT and NTUC-I.

The programs was attended by zonal and district level Trade Union Leaders from GEFONT and NTUCI-I. In Hetauda, Madhusudhan Khatiwada from GEFONT and Tej Bahadur Goddar from NTUCI-I, in Butwal, Hari Karki from GEFONT and Kajiman Shrestha from NTUC-I, and finally in Dhangadi, Krishna P Joshi from GEFONT and Govind Phulara from NTUC-I attended the seminar. Their contribution was noteworthy.

In all these three places, around 120 workers were trained out of which 56 were female on different issues. Dinesh Rai from GEFONT, Yuba Raj Lama from NTUCI-I, Tej Prasad Rijal from NTUCI-I and Chandra D Bhatta from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung conducted the workshops. The workshop focused on three topics social security, labour reform, organizational management, and gender justice.

Speaking in the inaugural session, the tendency to undermine the children of workers and merely prepare them workers is the biggest problem and this attitude needs to be changed. Workers (be they are inside our outside the country) are contributing highest share in the national economy but they are least paid - this is a real dilemma of Nepali democracy.

In the same vein, speaking in the inaugural session - Madhusudan Khatiwada said that programmes like this, where representatives of both trade unions sit together and initiate discussion about the issues that concern most to the workers can contribute to the industrial pace and national harmony. Dinesh Rai argued that we need to have a class-based state not ethnicity and caste base state.

Majority of the participants in Hetauda said that this is the best programme they have ever attened, organized by the trade unions at the grass roots level. Madhusudan Khatiwada from GEFONT was also of the view that this is one of the best programme for the local level trade union leaders and workers.

Neha Neupane said that she has learned so many new things. Rojina Aryl said that she is very happy to be here in this programme as she has learned about the issues of gender equality and social security. Sumina Aryal said that she came to know so many issues about the labour laws. Radheshyam Sigdel said that he has learned about social security, labour act, and trade union act. Tialk Pd. Dhakal said that programs like this should be organised in the factories so that both employers and employee can get benefit. Bimala Pariyar said that she liked the programme as the organizers even tired to address the issues of ladies tailors who does tailoring job at home. In addition to this, she learned so many new things.

Almost all the participants participated in the discussion pogramme and tabled their issues.

In Butwal, Hari Karki said that we need to find out the factories where the labour act is honesty implemented. I think time has come for us to reflect upon our past endeavours to improve the conditions of the workers in Nepal.

Dinesh Rai said that the culture of undermining workers in our society should be discouraged.

Most of the participants in Butwal were more concerned about securing their trade union rights including the social ones. One participant asked why workers cases/issues are not decided in time by the concerned authorities in Nepal.

Laxmi Shrestha asked what is collective bargaining? She further said that training is necessary to the workers but the time that has been allocated here is not sufficient. Also the logistical issues caused some problems in achieving our goals. Yet, we knew about so many issues in a short span of time.

Rupa Lacoul said that this is a good programme as it even tires to address the contribution made by the housewives in the national economy. It also endeavours to address their problem by brining unorganized women in to a common platform which will help them to secure their social security rights.

Usha Shrestha said that she is very happy for being invited to participate in this progrmame, she, at least, now can speak in front of people without hesitation.

Padam Bahadur Chhetri said that the time allocated for the discussion on labour law is not enough. I think we should have discussed in group suggested Chhetri.

Brij Narayan Yadav said that from this programme he learned so many new things particularly about the social security that is in offing. Also the type of work (permanent, termporry an causuaL) that has been purposed. In the same vein, the importance being involved in the organisations

Shila Malla said that this is an effective progrmme but let us now well in advance in the future so that we can also prepare ourselves for our due contribution in the discussion.

Dhangdai - this is the first time that the FES has organised training programmes for the workers of this region. For that reason, many participants thanked FES's effort to include the workers of this region in the national mainstream.

Since this was the first programme many participants were not aware about the laws that are currently under discussion. Yet, the level of their enthusiasm was very high. Many local trade union leaders are not even aware of as how to put trade union demand.

Some also expressed their grievances that they have been working in the factory for eight to ten years but not yet given the employment letters. Others argued that the minimum wage has not been implementing. There is huge discrimination in the wages between men and women for the same work.

Having organized seven programmes from the eastern to the western part of Nepal, what has been realized that the workers at the grass-roots level are not even aware of about the basic trade union rights. The national centre should take up this issue very seriously. Failing to do so will jeopardize their influence in society. It clear appears that NGOs have hijacked their agendas primarily because the trade union leaders are more concentrated in the centre than to the periphery.

Subjective wise, the programmes have been great successful in disseminating new labour laws that are under discussion. Likewise, they also came to know about the link between economy, politics and the capital.

Programmes like this also help to understand how both macro and microeconomic policies of the past have downgraded the work of decent work. The quality work is a source of personal dignity, family stability, and peace in the community and certainly, a source of credibility for democratic governance. However, in too many places we have lost the basic notion that labour is not a commodity.

The current city-centered growth model merely considers work way to make profits which does not take into account its social responsibility. This has to be reversed, if we certainly wanted to have harmonious state-society and labour-capital relationship.

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