Put Workers In Centre

Nepal has lately become a federal democratic republic with the national sovereignty resting in the citizens of the country. The democratic constitution is founded on the ideals of equality, non-discrimination and social justice. The new statute embodies social justice, right against exploitation, right to work, remuneration and social security as well as right to trade union and collective bargaining. The rights to education, health care, food, housing, culture and language are guaranteed as fundamental rights of the countrymen. The government has also enacted a number of legislations to enforce fundamental rights, including those related to the world of work.

There is no doubt that the country has witnessed unprecedented change in the political front; but democracy remains incomplete without economic right and social justice. Hence the current government is making endeavours to turn the economy around embracing a slogan of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. And the policies it has embraced have had a positive impact; after years of meagre growth this year the economy is growing at around 7.0 per cent and it is expected to surge to 8.5 per cent next fiscal year. Provided the economy actually grows at this rate for the next few years and the government can distribute its fruits among all regions and groups of people, the life of an average Nepali citizen will surely change for the better. The real gain of democracy is measured not merely in terms of political freedom, but in terms of economic gains and social justice to the ordinary people. This is what Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli intended when he said, “We must keep human at the centre of everything” in his address to the 108th session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva the other day.

PM Oli referred to Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in 1988 and the Decent Work Agenda in 1999 as landmark initiatives in the world of work in the last decade of the previous century. He also noted that the report “Work for a Bright Future” by the Global Commission on the Future of Work provides a sound basis for the way forward. He said that the development of technology, shifting demography, migration and change in the organisation of work were creating new paths in to prosperity, and stressed on the need to invest in people’s capabilities, promote entrepreneurship and create decent jobs to cope with the changes. The other things that need to be taken care of are gender equality, social protection and the guarantee of rights at work.

The world of work has undergone significant changes over time, including in our country. The trade unions have played a vital role in promoting the rights of workers and serve their interests. But in the recent decades the trade union movement has been badly politicised and the real workers have often been exploited for political interests. This is because trade unions are affiliated to one or other political party, which has resulted in the conflict of interest of these organisations. Unless they work professionally and stay away from the influence of the political parties, the actual workers won’t be able to enjoy the rights guaranteed by the constitution and other laws of the land. 

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