A day after employers and employees in the Birgunj corridor agreed not to strike and maintain industrial harmony, a trade union affiliated to CPN-Maoist — a breakaway faction of UCPN-Maoist — today threatened to close all industries across the country -- curtailing economic freedom of workers -- from May 24, if their demands are not met.
Giving a week-long ultimatum today, All Nepal Revolutionary Federation of Trade Union coordinator Ramdeep Acharya said that industries across the country will be forcefully closed, if the government does not fulfil their 25-point demand.
"We will start massive campaigning and pamphleteering from tomorrow for a week," he said, adding that on May 22 and 23, we will hoist black flags at all the industries across the country.
Since the government did not take our 25-point demand — including a minimum salary of Rs 15,000 and Rs 700 per day wage — handed over to it on March 24, we are compelled to take this step, Acharya added.
However, chairperson of Employers Council under Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Pashupati Murarka said that they have been working on a scientific modality of salary hike. "The Minimum Wage Fixation Committee has been discussing about a permanent module for minimum salary and wage hike on a scientific basis," he said, adding that the next meeting will be on Sunday.
The Minimum Wage Fixation Committee — a tripartite committee — that has three members each from the trade unions, employers and the government generally recommends the government the minimum salary and wage unitedly, which the government approves.
Earlier, the committee had fixed Rs 6,200 minimum salary and Rs 213 daily wage on March 24, 2011. According to the Labour Act 1992, the committee revises minimum salary and wage every two years.
Since the minimum salary and daily wage needs to reviewed this year, the Minimum Wage Fixation Committee has been meeting since the last couple of weeks to revise the minimum salary and daily wage.
In the last meeting, the trade unions had asked employers to hike minimum salary according to the rising inflation rate that is hovering around 10 per cent at present.
The All Nepal Trade Union Federation — the labour arm of UCPN-Maoist — has asked to hike the minimum wage to Rs 12,500, though other trade unions including Nepal Trade Union Congress-Independent and General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions have not yet disclosed their minimum amount.
The minimum salary hike is not a big issue, according to an entrepreneur, who did not want to be named. "However, labour productivity has been eroding in the last one decade," he said, adding that employers are ready to pay the minimum salary that employees are demanding, provided their productivity also increases. "But the politically motivated labour unions can neither increase their productivity nor bargain collectively for their rights, and only disturb the industrial relation."
Due to low productivity and high cost of production, the manufacturing sector's contribution to the GDP has come down to 6.17 per cent in 2012-13 from 8.50 per cent in 2001-02, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
According to ILO Global Wage Report 2012-13 also, Nepal has the highest minimum wage per month in South Asia ($83.76), followed by Pakistan ($82.17), India ($64.07), Sri Lanka ($51.22), and Bangladesh ($40.46) as of 2011.
Manufacturing sector's contribution to GDP
Fiscal year — Contribution
2005-06 — 7.59 per cent
2006-07 — 7.48 per cent
2007-08 — 7.34 per cent
2008-09 — 6.97 per cent
2009-10 — 6.34 per cent
2010-11 — 6.20 per cent
2011-12 — 6.28 per cent
2012-13 — 6.17 per cent
(Source: Central Bureau of Statistics)