Movement in telecom for 17 days, who will take the responsibility?


Five years ago, in 2073 BS, there was a program in the Bhadrakali premises of Nepal Telecom. Telecom trade union leaders were present on the stage. 

Soon after, the then Minister of Communications, Surendra Kumar Karki (Ram Karki) came. He was the communications minister in the government of CPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. 

At that time, Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal’s group, which had left the CPN-Maoist, had returned to Prachanda’s party. The people’s organizations, which were parallel to the two parties, were uniting like the mother party. 

Telecom, which also called journalists as a special event, also announced the unification of trade unions believing in the two Maoists. 

“We no longer need to be in two unions,” the trade union leaders said. The staff in the courtyard applauded loudly. 

The Minister also wished the trade unions well and returned to the Ministry. That day, dozens of telecom employees spent time in the integration program. He showed up and returned home. 

Nepal Telecom, which has to compete fiercely with the private sector, has been facing similar problems for years. The trade union movement in the name of workers’ rights, the intervention of the government and taluk ministers, the lack of efficient management, and delays in work have already plagued the telco. 

Telecom has spent many years fearing that the tradition of when a minister would carry a union employee and when a union employee would harass a minister and managing director would collapse like other government institutions. Recent events have changed this part.  

In the midst of such problems, good work has been done in telecom. It is competing with the private sector. Telecom has made a lot of improvements in recent times due to the strength of many capable employees of a big organization like Telecom. 

With the expansion of Forge, expansion of FTTH Internet, focus on quality and strategic improvement, the telco has been able to survive in a competitive market. 

Meanwhile, agitations, sit-ins and blockade activities in the name of trade union rights have started increasing in the telco. The law itself gives employees the right to engage in trade unions. It is the duty of the management to find a solution to the problem while respecting their rights. 

However, it is ironic that in an urgent sector like telecom and in a situation where we have to compete by counting every day, we have to agitate for a long time, ban the managing director from entering the office and not solve the problem as soon as possible. 

It has been 17 days since the trade union workers started agitation in Nepal Telecom. They staged a sit-in at the gate of the office from 10 am to 5 pm and did not allow the managing director to enter the office. 

The managing director has been doing urgent work by manipulating office hours in the morning and evening. The demand of the trade union is that the Employees Regulations 2061, which was amended by the Board of Directors on July 20, should be amended again.

In the amended regulations, the trade union rights up to 9 levels have been reduced to 7 levels, while the provision of automatic retirement of ten level employees after 8 years and 11 level employees after five years has been removed.

Trade unions have demanded that the regulations be reinstated. The regulations that came with amendments from the public service were passed by the board of directors with the verbal consent of the trade union. 

Nepal Telecom Employees Regulation Dispute, Why the amendment had to be made the very next day?

According to the trade union, it was agreed to send it to the public service for re-consultation the next day. Talks were also held last Saturday and Sunday between the representatives of the management and steering committee and the representatives of the trade unions. No agreement was reached during the two-day talks. 

“After all, why couldn’t the problem be solved for such a long time?” Is the question we have asked the managing director of Telecom, Delhi officials and trade union leaders. 

Officials say that only the board of directors and the taluk minister can resolve the issue raised by the trade union. “There is nothing that management can do now to amend the regulations,” the official said.  

According to him, the current problem cannot be solved without the chairperson of the board of directors. The Chairman of the Board of Directors will be the Secretary of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. 

At present, the ministry is without a secretary. The new secretary has not come after the then communications secretary Hari Basyal retired on the day the movement started. On the other hand, no new minister has been appointed in the Ministry of Information and Communication after the change of government. 

The new regulations were implemented from July 20 with the verbal consent of the employees’ union. As per the old regulations, 564 telecom employees have been upgraded till mid-July. 

As many things in the new regulations are not in line with the nature of the company’s work, the board of directors meeting on July 19 decided to amend the main 16 points and sent the public service through the Ministry of Communications, the official said.

According to him, the board of directors has instructed the management to study the complexities in the implementation of the regulations and submit it to the committee. 

“The management is also working out to rectify the inconsistencies in the nature of the company’s work,” the official said. 

During the sit-in, the flow of essential services was hampered and control of covid infection was hampered, the official said. “They should also take responsibility for it,” the official said. 

Other public enterprises like Telecom have similar problems. In those places, if the trade union is not satisfied, it is found that they have reached the court. 

Trade union representatives, however, say no secretary or minister is needed to amend the regulations. “It is up to the board of directors to amend the regulations,” said Yadav Paneru, president of the Nepal Telecom Employees’ Union. “It’s up to the acting secretary and the board to decide.”

Talks were also held last Saturday and Sunday to resolve the issue. Ambika Poudel from the Board and Deputy Secretary from the Ministry and Head of Law Branch and representatives of trade unions were present at the talks. 

“We told them not to write the language of trying, to take initiative, to agree on as many points as possible,” Paneru said. “They could not take responsibility for the agreement.” We are going to come after further discussions. ‘ 

Chairman of the Nepal Trade Union (ATCW) Rajendra Joshi said that the last point of amendment was sent to the ministry without the consent of the trade union. He said that they did not agree on the point sent to the amendment on July 19 and that he was stuck in the ministry. 

“It was decided to send the amendment proposal on the day the new regulations were passed,” Joshi said. 

He said that it was not necessary to wait for the minister and secretary to solve the current problem. “We have not raised political issues as required by the minister,” Joshi said. “The issue of staff regulations can be resolved by the board.”

The movement seems to be protracted as secretaries and ministers are not appointed and talks do not move towards consensus. Despite the long sit-in, Paneru claims that the work of the organization has not been hampered. 

“We have not agitated to disrupt the work. We have staged a peaceful sit-in, ‘Paneru said.’ As far as we know, the MD has also come to work in the morning and evening. 

The District Administration Office has been circulating the agitating employees due to the agitation during the Kovid infection.   

Four days have passed since the first talks. Now neither the secretary nor the minister has decided to come. It is not certain that talks will take place here. Joshi says that if there is no initiative soon, more agitation will be intensified by accumulating power.  

If such a movement is going on in a sector like telecom, how can it survive by competing in the market? 

Credit: ICT

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