Foreign workers for various projects await labour permits

  • Over 400 workers denied permits as employers fail to limit workforce
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Mar 10, 2019-

Labour permits of hundreds of foreign workers, who have been associated with various development projects and companies in Nepal, have been halted for months.

According to a list obtained by the Post, a total of 421 labour permits of foreigners—working for various mega projects to airlines companies—have been held by the Department of Labour and Occupational Safety, the authority responsible for issuing permits to foreigners wishing to work in Nepal.

These applications for labour permits are for a total of 29 projects and companies, according to the list maintained by the department until February 3, 2019. As per the Labour Act (2017), a foreign worker must obtain the labour permit for working in the country.

Udaya Kumar Gupta, acting director general of the department, said labour permits could not be issued to those applicants because that would flout the existing legal provisions.

“Labour permits have not been stopped. We could not issue them because the total share of the foreign labour force had exceeded the legal limit,” Gupta told the Post.

According to the Labour Regulations (2017), a company can have a maximum of five percent foreign workers in its total workforce. However, for the government’s mega projects, the number can go up.

“Either the total number of foreign workers should not cross the five percent ceiling or their number should be mentioned in the contract. In some cases, the number was not mentioned. Nor had they maintained the five percent ceiling,” Gupta said.

When the number was not mentioned in the project contract, the labour department had considered the five percent ceiling for issuing labour permits. Some of these applicant companies had a share of foreign workers as high as 55 percent of their total workforce.

Hydropower projects, airlines, and technology and engineering firms are among the companies with halted labour permits.

After labour permits were not given, builders associated with these mega projects expressed concerns saying that the bar was affecting the projects.

Following the concern, a meeting was held at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security on January 8, 2019.

The meeting had recommended that the labour permit could be provided one time to such workers for a period of three months in an interim arrangement if the labour permits were not provided because of the numerical limitations of five percent to industries and enterprises.

Following the recommendation, which the official says was not the final decision, the department started providing labour approval to workers in those companies that had maintained five percent threshold and were reviewing their contracts.

Pilots associated with the Nepal Airlines and language trainers associated with the International French School, where all five staffers are foreign, have got the labour permits valid for the next three months.

Ram Prasad Ghimire, chief of the Labour Relations and Social Security Division under the Labour Ministry, told the Post that labour permits were earlier not given because of technical issues.

“It can be given temporarily for three months. We have asked for details from the department. The ministry would look further into this matter,” added Ghimire.

Published: 10-03-2019 11:53

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