Nepalese unions unite against COVID-19

27 April 2020 12:16

Amidst an ongoing lockdown in Nepal, the BWI affiliate, Central Union of Painters, Plumbers, Electro and Construction Workers (CUPPEC), took several actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on workers and their families. The union has developed a COVID-19 action program comprised of regular online meetings with its Central Committee members to assess the situation and challenges on the ground, and regular monitoring of government and union actions. 

The CUPPEC reported that it facilitated the safe return of migrants in different locations and ensured food supplies to migrants workers’ families by linking them with the government’s relief program. So far, the union has organised the safe return of 1,170 migrant workers stranded due to the lockdown and distributed food supplies to 1,850 families in Kaski, Makwanpur, Kathmandu, Nawalparasi and Sindhuli areas. 

The union has also assisted the government in collecting data on daily wage workers at the local level. In a display of cross-border solidarity, the CUPPEC, heeding the request of Indian unions from Odisha State, linked 17,311 workers to the government’s relief package program.

Meanwhile, the CUPPEC is working closely with  two other BWI affiliates in the country, Construction and Allied Workers Union of Nepal (CAWUN) and All Nepalese Construction Workers Union (ANCWU), to address problems faced by workers.  The union has also conducted meetings with the Federation of Contractors Association of Nepal (FCAN). The  FCAN committed to provide health check-ups and food supplies to workers in construction sites and observe OHS safeguards. The union hopes to promote the same provisions on large infrastructure and MNC worksites.  

CUPPEC President Naranath Luitel, said that his union, together with GEFONT, has been at the forefront to ensure the rights of distressed workers, including the rights of migrant workers. “Our leaders and cadres are very active in creating awareness on COVID-19 and doing relief operations in Nepal’s different districts, despite the lockdown.  Nepal currently has 52 COVID-19 cases.  Trade unions have a significant role to play in containing its spread and mitigating its socio-economic impact on our workers and members. 

Last month, CUPPEC and GEFONT submitted a 10-point demand letter to the Minister of Women, Children & Senior Citizens. Included is a list of  demands for construction and daily wage workers. GEFONT has also created and uploaded videos and posters online to create awareness on COVID-19 among its union affiliates.