Free visa, ticket provision: Recruiting agencies start indefinite strikeForeign Employment Agencies started an indefinite strike on Wednesday protesting government’s decision to provide free visa and free air ticket to migrant workers.
Around 2,000 service seekers from across the country were affected as the recruiting agencies and agents shut down the front desk office of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) on the first day.
Nafea protest starts just two days after the government made it mandatory for employers in seven work destinations to issue free visa and free ticket in order to hire Nepali workers.
Recruiting agencies said they would continue obstruction at the department until the government rolls back the "controversial" provision. Bimal Dhakal, Nafea’s newly-elected chairperson, said the government should first take the labour receiving countries into confidence before enforcing the provision. He claimed the decision was enforced in haste in order to displace them from the business.
“We are ready to support the free visa and free ticket decision if the government signs labour agreement with the concerned destination countries clearly mentioning the provision. One-sided decision of Labour minister is not acceptable,” Dhakal said. Earlier, most of the recruiting agencies had pressed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to take concerned stakeholders into confidence before enforcing the new provision.
The government decision, taken in an effort to prevent economic exploitation of workers in the name of recruitment fees, came into effect on July 6. Migrant workers going to Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait will benefit from the provision. Some 3.5 million Nepali migrant workers are employed in these countries.
According to the new provision, aspiring migrant workers will have to pay only for their health check-ups, orientation training and the migrant worker’s welfare fund. They may have to pay a maximum of Rs 10,000 as service charge if the concerned employer does not provide such charge to the recruiting agency.
Earlier, over 80 percent of migrant workers had to pay at least Rs 70,000 to recruiting agencies before going aboard. The government had fixed Rs 70,000 as service charge for workers going to the Gulf countries and Rs 80,000 for those going to Malaysia.
Recruiting agencies argue that the new provision is “immature” as most of the amount taken from migrants goes to accredited agents in labour receiving countries and layers of grassroots agents working in Nepal.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung, however, said the provision was aimed at ending the ongoing exploitation of migrant workers. “This provision will help make the foreign employment sector more organised and decent. I don’t think it will lead to a decline in the demand of Nepali workers,” he said. Bhola Prasad Shiwakoti, secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, on Monday had said the government would scrap the license of recruiting agencies if they were found taking visa and ticket charge from migrant workers.