Manipal Teaching Hospital in Nepal faces labour trouble in Nepal
Dec 26, 2006 - 11:14:03 PM

Kathmandu, Dec 26 - After multinationals Pepsi and Coke, Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara city in central Nepal came under labour trouble, with workers disrupting work at the 700-bed hospital, Nepal's official media said.

The Manipal Teaching Hospital and Medical College, located in the picturesque Phulbari town in Pokhara city, west of Kathmandu, is run by India's Manipal educational group, owned by the Pai family of Manipal in southern India's Karnataka state.

The group is one of the largest Indian investors in Nepal.

Workers began an agitation from Sunday, pressing for a 13-point demand that includes ending the contract system and giving permanent employment to seasonal workers.

The workers alleged that they have not been paid the dues ensured by the labour act. They say their wages are not as per the act, nor are they provided healthcare facilities, the state-owned Rising Nepal daily said Tuesday.

They are demanding fixed wages at the scale of NRS.10,000, health insurance worth NRS. 500,000- and a 240-working day year, the daily said.

The protesting workers stopped work from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Sunday to put pressure on the authorities to concede their demands, the daily said.

The hospital hit the headlines last year when the roof over the out patient department collapsed, killing eight visitors and two members of the staff.

The hospital authorities said they would commission an inquiry into the incident and announced compensation for the victims.

Labour trouble has erupted in Nepal's business sector during the governance of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, with several hotels and joint ventures being shut down by workers supported by labour unions affiliated either to the Maoists or the political parties.

All hotels and restaurants in Pokhara remained closed for four days last week after the Maoist union flexed its muscle, accusing the authorities of exploiting the workers.

Business took a back seat for Coke in Nepal with Maoists shutting down the soft drink giant's factories over hiring row on Christmas, the third day since trouble erupted Saturday.

The two bottling plants in Kathmandu and Bharatpur in southern Chitwan district were forcibly shutdown by the Maoists' powerful labour union to force the management into re-hiring contract workers.

Earlier this month, Coke's rival Pepsi, bottled by Varun Beverages that is controlled by India's RKJ Group, had their factory closed down by labour leaders for nearly a week to press the demand for permanent jobs and other facilities.

A few weeks ago, all the tea gardens in eastern Nepal were shut down for nearly a month over similar demands.

Though the Maoists signed a peace pact with the seven-party government agreeing to allow businesses to function unhindered, their labour union, once banned as a terrorist organisation, has been on a locking spree.

Its leaders defend the action on the ground that they were trying to prevent the exploitation of workers.

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