Indian companies unaffected by Maoist union’s strike in Nepal

November 28th, 2008 - 6:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 28 (IANS) Two major Indian joint ventures operating in an industrial corridor in central Nepal remained unaffected by an indefinite strike called by the ruling Maoist-backed trade union from Friday in the area, thanks to a recent visit of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to that country.Nepal Lever, India’s consumer goods giant Hindustan Lever’s 14-year-old subsidiary and United Breweries Nepal Pvt Ltd, Nepal’s first brewery acquired by Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s UB Group, remained unaffected by the strike that shut down 44 other industries in the Hetauda industrial corridor.

Mukherjee, who visited Nepal earlier this week, asked both Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav to ensure the protection of Indian investment in that country. Both Nepal Lever and Breweries Nepal were spared from the strike, officials said.

The Maoist trade union has called for the strike to enforce the hike in minimum wages announced by the Maoist-headed labour ministry in September, but yet to be backed by labour laws.

Nepal Lever, which employs nearly 150 people in its factory in Hetauda’s Basamadi village, has already planned to implement the new wages decided by Labour Minister Lekhraj Bhatt. But many Nepali companies are opposed to the new wages, saying that would cause the closure of smaller industries.

Nepal’s apex business body, the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry will hold tripartite talks Sunday with state labour officials and trade union representatives following which a final decision is expected.

Following the hike, the minimum salary in the industrial sector is now about Nepali Rs.4,500 per month while the minimum daily wage is Rs.150.

United Breweries Nepal is yet to take a decision and the salary for the Nepali month of Kartik (mid-Oct to mid-Nov) is yet to be paid pending the final decision.

The Nepal arm of oral care giant Colgate-Palmolive, which was divested by the Indian company this month, however, has remained closed since the handover due to workers’ protests.

On Thursday, Maoists closed down most hotels in Nepal’s tourist town Nagarkot. They later withdrew the strike after Prachanda intervened.

Nepali companies say they are already reeling under a 42-hour weekly power outage and disruption in production and distribution due to frequent strikes, and are not in a position to pay higher wages.

Some companies say they will implement the minimum wages once the government made the appropriate regulations, which are yet to come through.

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