Maoist trade union halts Nepal’s sole cable car

November 11th, 2008 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 11 (IANS) A trade union affiliated to Nepal’s ruling Maoist party has brought the country’s only cable car service, a major tourist attraction and revenue earner, to a standstill in the latest incident in a series of anti-outsourcing movements that is likely to affect many businesses in future.The All Nepal Security Workers’ Federation padlocked the gates of Manakamana Darshan Pvt Ltd, the agency running the cable car service, late last month and declared an indefinite closure, the company said Tuesday.

The federation moved in after an altercation over the employment of security personnel.

Manoj Manandhar, a sales and marketing staffer at Manakamana, told IANS that the agency was outsourcing security guards from a private security agency, Garuda Security Private Ltd.

However, the security guards last month approached Manakamana and said they wanted to be directly employed by the agency, a proposal rejected by the latter. As the security personnel still persisted, they were sacked by their employing company Garuda.

Subsequently, the dismissed men, under the banner of the Maoist union, locked the gates of Manakamana and declared an indefinite lockout.

Manandhar said November was a peak tourism season with over 35,000 visitors riding the cable car that traverses to Gorkha district in western Nepal from Chitwan in the south.

Every day, the company has been losing over NRS 1 million (over $13,000).

The Manakamana incident comes after a similar protest at the offices of Indian joint venture United Telecom Ltd (UTL), the first private telecom operator in Nepal.

The Indian JV has been under siege by its outsourced workers hired from a third-party contractor, who began demanding direct recruitment by the JV.

This year, before it bowed out, Nepal’s Girija Prasad Koirala government endorsed the demand of the workers, ordering UTL to absorb them and creating a precedent that is likely to embolden other outsourced workers to demand direct employment.

Other Indian ventures like Nepal Lever and Dabur Nepal have also faced similar demands in the past that led to their factories being padlocked by protesters.

The cable car lockout comes at a time Nepal’s tourism industry is poised to win back visitors it lost after the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft in 1999. Last month, over 50,000 tourists visited Nepal, marking an eight-year high.

It also comes after a high-level meeting between Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and home and defence ministers during which the premier asked his two colleagues to ensure adequate security for hydropower ventures.

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