Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Trade unions cover only 3.4 per cent labour force

Though, there are more than a dozen trade unions in the country, they cover only a fraction of the total labour force of 11.7 million.
They cover about only 400,000 workers in the organised sector, according to Department of Labour.
"There is almost no presence of trade unions in the informal sector, said director general of the Department of Labour Kebal Prasad Bhandari. "Trade union coverage is limited due to their focus on the well organised formal sector," he said, adding that at present trade unions cover only 3.4 per cent of the total labour force of the country.
There are thousands of workers involved in the informal sector but trade unions are not interested in them because it will be a Herculean task to unite them. "Not a single trade union has lobbied for labour rights for informal sector workers," said Bhandari. The informal sector has been growing in the country in recent years — following the post conflict turmoil.
Trade unions do not have access to migrant workers, who constitute 29.68 per cent stake in the total labour force. About 3.5 million Nepalis, including 800,000 undocumented workers, are believed to be working in foreign countries, according to the Department of Foreign Employment.
Similarly, the number of home-based workers has reached 2.2 million and agriculture workers — seasonal workers — also share a significant stake in the labour force pie.
Despite the informal sector being ignored by trade unions, the government is planning to include them in the labour laws. "We don't have sector wise classification but the government is planning to include all those involved in the informal sector in the labour law net," said spokesperson of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Buddhi Bahadur Khadka.
The government has decided to include even those enterprises that have only one worker in the labour law. Earlier, the Labour Act 1992 only covered industries and enterprises that had more than 10 workers. "It has now envisioned to include small and medium scale industries and businesses," he said.
The government has been consulting stakeholders — entrepreneurs, trade unions and experts from central labour advisory committee — to build a better industrial environment by reducing labour disputes. It is the current challenge to promote industrialistion and commercialistion of traditional agriculture practices and handicrafts.

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