Recruitment agencies’ protest labelled ‘sham’

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Recruitment agencies’ protest labelled ‘sham’

Jul 25, 2015-

Scores of foreign employment agencies were secretly receiving work permits from the government while their umbrella organisation, Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (Nafea), was enforcing “indefinite strike” barring services to hundreds of migrant workers each day, the Post has learnt.

Around one hundred recruiting agencies have acquired work permits from the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) through covert channels since Nafea’s strike started 18 day ago. DoFE records show the department issued a total of 3,433 final work approvals to recruiting agencies within the period.

Nafea’s strike, which was announced to protest against a government provision that makes it biding for foreign employers to provide free visa and ticket for workers, has affected nearly 30,000 overseas job aspirants.

DoFE officials said the agencies also applied new pre-work approval, which is mandatory for them to start the hiring process. Final approval or the work permit is issued at the end of the process after verifying that the concerned migrant is getting work, wage and other benefits as promised in the demand letter submitted during the pre-approval phase. “Their strike is a sham as even many of Nafea’s leaders are coming from the back door with requests for work permits. This drama should stop as it has affected many common people while the protesters are carrying out their usual work,” said a DoFE official. The department has kept its frontline office open throughout the protest though very little worker came for services due to “agents’ rumours”.

In a joint press statement issued on Saturday, the DoFE and the Foreign Employment Promotion Board have given a three-day ultimatum to the recruiting agencies to call off the protest. The statement reads that the license of the recruiting agencies will be scrapped as per the Foreign Employment Act if they do not obey the order.

Nefea representatives claim the protest will not stop unless the government rolls back its decision which, according to them, attempts to displace many small recruiting agencies from the business.

Bal Bahadur Tamang, Nafea’s former chairperson, said he was unaware of the work permit acquired by recruiting agencies.

He claimed that not a single agency has taken new pre-work approval, while conceding that some may have taken final approval fearing expiry of visa.

“The government should not forget that the constitution has ensured rights for peaceful protest. But we want to resolve this issue through dialogue and expect same gesture from the government side,” Tamang said, adding that talks are under way. He was hopeful of a breakthrough in the next meeting.

The free visa, ticket system is expected to end the middlemen culture and end exploitation of workers by recruiting agencies. Nepali workers going 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 migrant workers’ welfare fund. They may have to pay an additional Rs 10, 000 as service charge to the recruiting agency if the employer is not paying them the commission.

Earlier, recruiting agencies charged a minimum of Rs 70,000 from workers going to the Gulf countries and Rs 80, 000 from those leaving for Malaysia.

State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung recently told the Post that the government will stick to the new rule. He, however, said the government was ready to address other concerns included in the Nafea’s 35-point demand list. Migrant workers and general public have welcomed the new rule saying that it will lessen financial burden of outbound workers.

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Published: 26-07-2015 08:03

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