Foreign employment agencies have decided to stop sending workers to the destination countries from Wednesday until the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) cancel its decision to introduce the ‘free airfare and visa’ provision. A gathering of foreign employment agencies organized by Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) on Tuesday decided to stop processing new workers for foreign destinations until MoLE scraps its decision to enforce a minimum cost system for workers headed for any of the six labor-destination Gulf countries or Malaysia.
Earlier on June 9, MoLE, acting through a state minister-level decision, introduced a provision on issuing work permits to workers only if the recipient companies agree to cover the round-trip airfare and visa fees for them and not deduct such expenses from the workers’ remuneration.
MoLE had introduced the provision for Malaysia as well as Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait. If the provision comes into force, an aspiring worker bound for any of these destinations would have to pay only Rs 17,000. This amount will cover medical test fees, insurance and the amount to be deposited at the Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB). The ministry’s decision has come into effective from Monday.
“The gathering of foreign employment agencies has decided to stop sending new workers to destination countries from Wednesday to press MoLE to roll back its decision on free airfare and visa, which was introduced unilaterally by the ministry without consulting the manpower firms,” Bimal Dhakal, newly-elected Nafea president, told Republica. “We (foreign employment firms) are not against a minimum cost system. However, this system should be introduced after completing the necessary homework,” he said.
According to Nafea President Dhakal, foreign employment entrepreneurs will encircle the Department of Foreign Employment Office at Tahachal on Wednesday as part of their protests. “We are closing the offices of our foreign employment firms and launching protests until the ministry cancels its decision. We have been compelled to go for protests as the ministry has flouted the directives of a parliamentary panel and the Prime Minister’s Office in enforcing its decision,” said Dhakal.
Parliament’s International Relations and Labor Committee on June 29 directed the government not to implement the ‘minimum cost system’ until labor agreements are signed with the labor-destination countries.
Foreign employment firms have been claiming that enforcement of such a provision will lead to reduction in the demand for Nepali workers and divert such demand to other countries.
“Obviously, we also supporter the minimum cost system. However, the decision of the ministry is hasty and gives cause for suspicion, and it will reduce the demand for Nepali labor and divert it to other countries such as Bangladesh. We demand necessary study before such a sensitive decision is taken. We have also proposed the formation of a study task force,” he said.