Labour trouble at another Indian JV in Nepal

September 3rd, 2008 - 8:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 3 (IANS) Forty people were arrested and nearly a dozen injured in clashes with the police in Kathmandu Wednesday during labour trouble at yet another Indian joint venture in Nepal, United Telecom Ltd (UTL).Since Friday protesters have been staging a daily sit-in in front of the UTL headquarters in Putalisadak in Kathmandu and also trying to blockade the road, leading to daily traffic chaos.

Forty people were taken into custody by the police during clashes, which also left several injured.

The labourers are demanding permanent employment for workers who have worked for over 240 days, insurance, medical facilities and education for their children.

UTL, Nepal’s first private telecom operator, says it is an unjust demand since the men were not hired by it but by the contracting firm that was used to outsource unskilled labour, following the custom worldwide.

Company officials say they have beefed up security and are also being provided police guards. However, though work at the telecom venture is yet to be hampered, there is growing fear that the protests will snowball soon.

After labourers affiliated to the ruling Maoist party’s powerful trade union shut down the factory of Indian Ayurvedic giant Dabur in southern Nepal Sunday, Nepal’s first private telecom operator UTL is now experiencing an upsurge in labour trouble.

UTL, whose promoters are Indian public sector undertakings Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd, is smarting under the demands made by the labourers who belong to the Maoists’ rival trade union affiliated to former prime minster Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress Party.

In February, UTL went through the same nightmare when after three weeks of token protests, workers hired by a third-party contracting firm stopped work, demanding direct and permanent employment at UTL.

The protesters also padlocked eight UTL centres in Kathmandu valley, preventing staff from entering or leaving the offices, and began a sit-in.

The police, alerted by UTL authorities, intervened in only one centre, forcing the padlock open.

About 180 unskilled workers have called the protests under the banner of UTL Workers’ Union, an organisation affiliated to the Nepal Trade Union Congress loyal to Nepal’s main opposition party.

The new unrest comes at a time Indian company Dabur’s wholly owned subsidiary Dabur Nepal has seen its factory in southern Nepal closed since Sunday.

The strikers, who belong to the Maoists’ All Nepal Trade Union Federation (Revolutionary) are demanding 10 percent bonus.

Talks between industry representatives, Dabur Nepal and the Maoists in the presence of new Labour Minister Lokendra Bhatt remained inconclusive.

This year, Maoists had also shut down Sipradi Trading, the sole dealer for Tata vehicles in Nepal, as well as Bharat Petroleum Corp’s Mak lubricant for cars, Exide Battery, and Indian Lucas Electricals that supplies electrical equipment for vehicles.

The tobacco factory of Surya Nepal, ITC’s joint venture, and Nepal Lever, Hindustan Lever’s subsidiary, have also been closed down for over a week by strikers making similar demands.

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