NTUC trade union and its affiliates from the Kathmandu valley met last Sunday, to appeal to their members to attend public hearings organized as part of the constitution drafting process in Nepal. After trade unions agreed in the JTUCC platform on several issues to be included (link), NTUC put forward five main issues which the members should suggest during the public hearings organized in 240 electoral constituencies around the country.

These five demands prioritized by NTUC are:

  1. Representation: 10% of workers representation on all levels of the state (parliament, but also district and local level) – link here
  2. Social security for all, including for migrant workers abroad
  3. Right to vote for Nepali migrants working abroad, through the Nepali diplomatic representations
  4. Institutionalizing the Labour Commission, a tripartite structure, necessary for the correct implementation of the Labour Law
  5. Right to strike

Five Nepali Congress members from the Constitutional Assembly attended, as well as the Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport, who ensured he supported the demands from NTUC.

Bruno Deceukelier, invited as the WSM Asia Coordinator, which is supporting this process, spoke how WSM believes in solidarity between workers all over the world, which is increasingly becoming a small village. He expressed it was important that in this village, houses of decent work were build and congratulated NTUC on emphasizing the four cornerstones in their five demands:

  1. The Right to Strike, which was also contested globally in the ILO and needs to be defended more than ever;
  2. The social security and more largely social protection for all, especially with such a significant portion of Nepali working abroad;
  3. Workers representation in the democracy;
  4. Social dialogue and tripartite structures

He also said Nepal is currently going through a fundamental time, where rights can be inscribed in the constitution and provide the foundation for many improvements of labour rights. If successful, trade unions will then have to play an important role in ensuring the respect of these rights.

How crucial this is can be demonstrated by the opposition of the Nepali Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), which wants to withdraw labour rights from the fundamental rights to be inscribed in the constitution. The article mentions “The private sector has voiced fears about the possible misuse of the provision regarding labour rights. “If the right is treated as a fundamental right, labourers could file a petition against their employers, and the state is liable to protect the right. This will create a dubious situation” (link to article here).