Workers of Beni-Jomsom road project padlock site office in protest over wage arrearsThe contractor of the 20-km road project has not paid workers’ wages for the past five months.
Around 200 workers engaged in upgradation work on the 20-km Galeshwor-Tatopani section of Beni-Jomsom-Korala road have been protesting for the past few days, demanding the payment of wages in arrears. They padlocked the project’s site office in Tiplang on Thursday. The agitating workers, however, have not halted project works.
“Around 200 of us have not been paid wages for the past five months. The contractor has been assuring us of payment but he has yet to pay us. They sometimes hand us bank cheques that bounce and other times they ask us to go to Kathmandu to receive our wages,” said Raju Pariyar, the leader of a group of 45 workers from Salyan district.
“Since the contractor is out of contact, we have come to the Chief District Officer,” he said.
Some of his colleagues came to the District Administration Office in Beni on Wednesday to lodge a complaint against the contractor.
The construction workers, with the help of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), came to Beni to call on the local administration to help them get their wages.
Four different groups of workers have lodged separate complaints against the Sharma-United JV Construction Company—the construction company that has been awarded the project two years ago. The construction workers, mostly from Rukum, Rolpa, Salyan, Jajarkot and Bajhang districts, have been deployed to widen roads in different sections of the road stretch. They claim the contractor owes them around Rs7million in wages.
“The construction companies have brought workers from remote districts and employed them here. They do not pay the workers on time and even threaten them when asked to be paid. This is labour exploitation,” said Bala Devi Baruwal Rai, the chief of GEFONT Myagdi. She also expressed her dissatisfaction at the local administration and political parties for being mute spectators to the workers’ plight.
Following the complaint, the District Administration Office on Thursday wrote to the Beni-Jomsom Road Project for necessary action to release workers’ wages. “We wrote letters to the project as well as the contractor and have directed them to pay the labourers at the earliest,” said Assistant Chief District Officer Mahesh Subedi.
Meanwhile, Sharma United Construction Company admitted of not issuing timely wages to labourers at the construction site. The company claimed it could not pay the wages as the Department of Roads had not released the budget.
“We owe the labourers. I am now in Kathmandu to receive the payment from the Department of Roads. I will return on Friday and pay off the wages within a week,” Balaram Aryal, a company’s representative, told the Post over the phone.
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