Provision to be enlisted in labour pacts

  • Free visa, ticket
- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Jul 19, 2015-

In a bid to institutionalise the newly introduced provision of free visa and ticket, the government has planned to mention “minimum cost recruitment” in all bilateral labour agreements it signs with the major labour receiving countries.

Senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Employment claim that guaranteeing cost-free visa and ticket in bilateral agreements would not only give legal validity to the provision in the labour receiving country but also make it binding for employers to stick to the rules at all times.

The provision would be explicitly mentioned in both new and revised labour pacts signed with the host countries. Nepal is in the process to sign labour agreements with Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the first, third and fifth largest recipients of Nepali migrant workers. It is also in the process to revise labour agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

“Work is in progress to mention the rule in the memorandum of understanding. It won’t take long as most of the countries are eager to sign the agreement,” said State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung.

Nepal has not been able to sign agreements with Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait despite its “relentless” effort since 2007.

The free visa, ticket system came into force on July 8 in a bid to end the middlemen culture and to control exploitation by the recruiting agencies. With the decision, Nepalis seeking to go to Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait for employment will have to pay only for health check-up, pre-departure orientation and to the migrant workers’ welfare fund. They may have to pay an additional Rs10,000 in service charge to the recruiting agency if the employer is not paying them the commission.

Earlier, the recruiting agencies charged a minimum of Rs70,000 from workers going to the Gulf and Rs80,000 from those leaving for Malaysia.

Even though the migrant workers and general public welcomed the new rule, recruiting agencies in Nepal have shut down their offices and are protesting against the decision. They claim that the new system would put most of the recruiting firms out of business.

Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (Nafea), the umbrella organisation of recruitment agencies in the country, also advises taking the labour receiving government into confidence as enforcing the new system would be impossible without their support.

“It would be better to suspend the process until the government signs labour agreements,” said Nafea Chairperson Bimal Dhakal.

Senior ministry officials including Gurung rule out the suspension of the new rule. “Most of the labour receiving countries including Qatar and Bahrain are ready to ensure free visa and ticket. The government will gradually sign MoUs but the provision will be in place,” said an official.

Nafea’s “indefinite” protest, enforced since July 8 amid widespread criticism, has affected around 2,000 workers leaving the country every day.

Published: 20-07-2015 07:57

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