Unilever Nepal — the Hetauda-based multinational company — resumed operations from today following a 11-day long wage and benefit dispute between workers and the management.
"The gates at Unilever opened at 8am today," said company secretary at Labour, Transport, Industry, Commerce and Supply Sub-committee of Legislative Parliament Ambar Bahadur Thapa, today.
"Unilever's management is positive about the development and issues will be settled at the negotiation table," he assured, adding that their application to the Ministry of Industry to close down the factory was just a formality. "We don’t have any intention to close down the company and escape from the genuine demands of the workers."
Lawmaker Jip Chhiring urged the company to look into the demands put forth by workers and to fulfil them according to existing laws. "Workers should get good wages and benefits and the management has to fulfil their legitimate demands. A loss or recession should not be the cause for not hiking salaries," he said.
However, he assured that the committee would pressure the government to revise the salary of workers. He added that subsidies should be provided by the government to companies that provide better salaries to workers. "I know Rs 6,200 is not enough for a family today," he said.
Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) director Hansh Raj Pandey urged the sub-committee to solve the labour dispute through a long-term programme and strategy. "Labour disputes are the major obstacles for the development of the industrial sector in Nepal, so it needs a comprehensive focus from the government," he said.
Ministry of Labour and Transport Management secretary Som Lal Subedi said that the workers' demands was a genuine collective bargaining framework. "The management's irresponsible behaviour was the problem because workers had submitted their demands a month ago according to the labour laws," he said, explaining that it was a matter of low motivation and absence of dialogue with workers that led to the shutdown of Unilever. He urged the management of Unilever to be transparent and flexible for a better relation with workers.
"The company is open. Workers are ready to settle their demands through talks, so Unilever should be more flexible to retain their confidence," he said. Lawmakers participating in the discussion urged Unilever to evaluate their salary and benefits according to other multinationals rather than the minimum wage of the country.
"Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Labour and Transport Management should start a fresh round of talks for a sustainable solution to the conflict," said president of the sub-committee Shanti Basnet Adhikari. The committee directed the government to amend the labour laws to make them compatible with the current situation.
Likewise, the committee decided to inspect Unilever to explore the root cause of the situation. "We also want to listen to the workers before arriving at any conclusion," she said.