Nepal Maoists 'threaten industry'

Hundreds of factories have closed due to striking workers demanding higher wages.


     Critics say the "Maoist style" approach to industry and regulation has prevented  economic progress

    Over the past nine months hundreds of factories in the country have closed as trade unions associated with political parties make demands on industrialists.

    A few have reopened but many still look like ghost towns.

    Striking workers told Al Jazeera that they want a raise in their salaries and they are not going to work until their demands are met.

    Ram Prasad Simkhada said:  "The strikes are happening not because of the labourers but because of the industrialists."

    "Labourers have been oppressed ... [the] Nepal government has increased the salary scale and that has not been paid."

    Recently, the government increased the minimum wage by over 30 per cent to $65 a month. But many industries still have not implemented the wage rise.

    'Aggressive tactics'

    But it is not just wage demands. Critics claim the trade unions, especially Maoist affiliated trade unions, have been extorting and threatening industrialists.

    The Young Communist League (YCL), a Maoist youth group, has been camping out on industrial estates in an attempt to intimidate factory owners.

    Astha Laxmi Shakya,  the minister of labour, said the Maoists have to use dialogue, rather than aggressive tactics.

    "We're in times of peace and we have appealed to trade unions to move away from battle to dialogue for better relations between labourers and entrepreneurs," he said.

    "We've asked the Maoists to remove YCL camps from industries. The Maoists have to learn to dialogue rather than battle."

    Rajendra Khetan, an industrialist, told Al Jazeera he had planned to expand his factory, but has since changed his mind.

    "Revenue and employment can only come from the industrial sector. So the militancy of the trade union has not only discouraged the private sector in terms of investing in the industrial sector, rather it has become difficult to consolidate what we have so far," he said.

    Broader agenda

    Rameshwor Bohara, an invesitgative journalist, claims unions have a broader agenda.

    "Maoists affiliated trade union while claiming to radicalise labour issues is using trade unions to penetrate into all sectors of business," he said.

    "They are exploiting it for political and economic benefit, as a means to get jobs for their people and to destroy existing trade unions."

    Shalik Ram Jamakatel, the president of Maoist trade union, has been accused of seeking economic favours through his union, a charge he denies.

    "We are fighting for the cause of the labourers – for their benefits. We are not using it for our party politics. We are being defamed," he said.

    "Other unions are not getting blamed and I think that there are a handful of people who are not happy with our party being in power."

    However, the irony is that while industries are losing millions of dollars, Jamakatel admitted to Al Jazeera that his trade union is expanding and plans to buy a building worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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