Labor Pangs

As history reveals, workers’ rights movement started in Biratnagar and was led by Girija Prasad Koirala in 1946 AD. However, sixty seven years later we have not been able to come up with proper laws and rights for a worker.

May 12, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 06 No. -22 May. 10- 2013 (Baishakh, 2070)

It would have been any other Wednesday in the bustling city of Kathmandu. Roads would have been full of vehicles and people scurrying to get to schools and colleges or places of work. But even by mid- morning, the city was at a standstill. Most shutters were still down and corporate houses closed. They were all honoring the workers and celebrating the International Labor Day on the first of May.

As we talk of honoring labor and their contribution, we tend to forget how mistreated they are. Construction workers have no proper safety equipment and this brings so many deaths every year. Other workers do not have much social security, medical insurance, leaves, disability insurance, overtime pays and, many-a-times, they are paid less than their minimum wage rates. Some are discriminated and denied jobs on the basis of their gender, religion, caste, creed or color. It also happens that they are immediately hired and fired as per the wish of the heads.  In cases like these, labor unions can do nothing, but completely stop the operation of companies that ill-treat the poor workers and start vandalizing vehicles and demonstrate in the streets. This brings in so many problems economically, sociologically and otherwise- least to start from unemployment.

Coming further to aggravated demonstrations and strikes led by the unions, so many working days are wasted for nothing. When something can be handled in a proper civilized manner, there need not be any commotion for the same. Moreover what is it that happens when it comes to the labor unions to take care of the matter in a civilized way? Everything cannot be concluded by violent handling and this is for the labor unions to understand.

Nepal is located between two economic hubs. We should be supplying plentiful human resources to them as well as try to establish our own productions instead of destroying the little that we have now. Instead of participating in this industrial breakdown we need to build and strengthen our industries.

While there were people enjoying the labor day at home on what would have been a boring weekday, there were laborers who went hungry that day. People who depend on a hand to mouth living find it really difficult to manage wages when 80 to 90 percent of their daily income is spent on food and other daily requirements. We made merry while they suffered and numerous labor unions that protect their rights otherwise did not do a thing to take care of their situation.

As history reveals, workers’ rights movement started in Biratnagar and was led by Girija Prasad Koirala in 1946 AD. However, sixty seven years later we have not been able to come up with proper laws and rights for a worker. Some organizations do follow simple safety and security but only a handful. Due to illiteracy and naivety, workers are not aware of their rights and criteria laid down by international organizations. Educated workers know their rights and their workplaces do provide them with proper job security. It is the uneducated that work the hardest and suffer the most.

Why do their so called unions not support them when they are mistreated every day at work? Why is it that they profess so much about helping common people secure their rights but little is done in reality? Threatening employers to demand anything is not a proper solution. Unions must negotiate in a moral manner, achieve something for their members and give members the best of the benefit these unions otherwise pocket.

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