After a month-long protest against the police raid in some manpower firms, the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies held talks with the Ministry of Labour and Employment to sort out the disputes. Manpower firms had suspended operations as a protest against the police raid and only resumed operations after the MoLE called them for talks on March 31. However, the talks between MoLE and NAFEA are yet to come to any concrete conclusion. Deepak Bohara, Minister for Labour and Employment spoke with Pushpa Raj Acharya of The Himalayan Times on what his ministry is doing to settle the disputes and on reforms in the foreign employment sector.
What is the view of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) regarding the protest launched by manpower firms against the police raid that was conducted on charges of manpower firms swindling money from foreign job aspirants?
We have to know about the issue in detail. When the earlier government had enforced ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision last year, manpower firms had launched protest for a month against the government’s move then too. Back then too there was an agreement between the government and manpower firms after the government convinced them that it would consider the issues raised by manpower firms after analysing the impact of the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision after a few months of its implementation. In the meantime, the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) and the police had made the monitoring strict. The police raided some manpower firms on charges that they were swindling money from foreign job aspirants, which is the cause of the recent protest. I asked foreign employment agencies to withdraw the protest and sit for talks. Now, we are looking at the best possible ways for a long-term solution of such problems and seeking cooperation from manpower agencies to reform the sector.
You have stated that the government will stick with the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision. How will MoLE be able to convince manpower firms for effective implementation of the provision?
The government will not reverse the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision and we have already made our stance clear. We have been holding discussions with manpower firms regarding the effective implementation of this provision. During our recent talks, manpower firms had raised three major issues that were related to taxation, service fees and the police raid on manpower firms. To sort out the issues related to taxation and police raid, we also invited authorities from Inland Revenue Department (IRD) and Ministry of Home Affairs, during the talks. There were issues related to book-keeping and authorities from IRD made it clear that the agencies need to maintain book-keeping of their transactions whether the amount was big or small. Similarly, they had grievances with the Ministry of Home Affairs due to the police raid. Regarding the service fee, we have not yet decided on how to move forward. Manpower firms have been seeking a moderate hike in service fee for the effective implementation of ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision.
We have been analysing the impact of ‘free visa, free ticket’ on migrant workers looking for employment opportunities in seven countries — Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. We also came to know that the service fee of Rs 10,000 for the aforesaid destinations fixed by the government had not been implemented properly and foreign job aspirants were also hesitant to divulge the amount they were being charged. The desk established by DoFE at Tribhuvan International Airport has been seeking information from all foreign job seekers going to aforementioned seven destinations, but the migrant workers have all been saying that were charged only Rs 10,000 as service fee by manpower firms. The reason behind this is that the workers were in a hurry to go abroad and assumed that making complaints could create problems in their foreign jobs. Manpower firms also have not been abiding by the rules related to proper orientation for job seekers before sending them to labour destinations. Apart from that there are various malpractices in foreign employment sector, like a foreign job seeker does not get the said job and salary, among others. We want manpower firms not to charge more than the amount fixed by the government and we also hope that foreign job seekers will lodge complaints against those who try to cheat them. We might consider a moderate revision in service fee if the manpower firms cooperate with the government to reform the foreign employment sector in a bid to safeguard foreign job seekers.