Kathmandu, Social Security Fund offers its employees more perks than banks and other financial institutions. Commercial Bank discriminates even in the provision of Nepal’s constitution and labor law that does not allow any workers to be deprived of the Provident Fund.
According to a study undertaken by the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Union (GEFONT), an analysis of the facilities offered to employees by 27 commercial banks in Nepal suggests that though the banks have developed guidelines to provide such a service, the study revealed that not all employees have been provided with it.
Although the social security system guarantees social security to all types of workers, the bank’s regulation primarily benefits permanent employees. The survey’s findings were announced at a press conference hosted by GEFONT just one day before Mayday, which is set to be held by GEFONT under the slogan “our vote is in the sun, in favor of workers' development and prosperity”. However, the constitution prohibits discriminatory treatment of all sorts of workers, the study discovered that employees at the same bank receive varied social security benefits depending on the type of work they conduct.
The wage facilities of staff working in Nepalese commercial banks differ significantly. While some high-ranking employees (CEOs) earn up to Rs 1.5 million per month, others earn as little as Rs 14,800 per month.
In accord with the GEFONT survey, employees at commercial banks can earn up to Rs 50 million in annual salaries and perks. As data presented by BIL Nepali service, the CEO of Everest Bank earns Rs 48.8milion per year, whereas the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank earns Rs 39.8 million. However, a GEFONT survey of 27 commercial banks revealed that these banks pay at least Rs 14,800 per month. GEFONT claims that wage inequality is rampant in commercial banks as most of the facilities are concentrated in the management domain.
Although Labor Act says that workers are entitled to receive provident funds from the start of their job, it has been observed that banks have been hesitant to provide such a service to non-permanent employees. The majority of contract outsources, and trained staff in banks do not have access to this facility. Only seven banks, out of the total of 27, have offered provident fund facilities since the start of the work. According to a GEFONT study, among banks that provide funds to the provident fund, 10 banks are in the provident fund, two banks have deposited money in the citizens’ Investment Fund, and 13 banks have invested money in their retirement plans.
Even in the provision of subsidies, it is apparent that banks have an unequal structure. In 4 out of 27 banks, the subsidy will be granted only after five years of permanent status, in five banks after three years of permanent status, and in one bank from the date of permanent status. In 17 banks, there is an arrangement to implement this facility since the commencement of the job. According to GEFONT, certain banks still have conditions of non-payment of subsidies, forcing bank employees to retie without receiving any benefits while waiting to become permanent. There appears to be no pension provision in any bank except the provision of getting a pension via the contribution-based social security system by enrolling in a social security fund.
It has been discovered that the social security fund’s facilities for the treatment of occupational diseases, treatment expenses for work-related accidents, and disability pension facilities outnumber those offered by the bank. Similarly, the social security fund’s provision of dependent family benefits and educational scholarships outweighs the bank’s offer in the case of the worker’s death.
As shown in a bank survey, all permanent employees are entitled to maternity leave, and some banks also provide this benefit to non-permanent employees. It has been reported that such leave periods range from 60 to 140 days. In banks, unpaid maternity leave can be extended for up to 90 days.
GEFONT has called for an end to a vicious cycle of labor exploitation that includes fearmongering of facility closure if banks’ employees engage in the social security system. Furthermore, GEFONT stated, “it is vital to dispel illusions and stand on a solid foundation to make the social security system robust, reliable, and mandatory".
At a press conference, GEFONT President Binod Shrestha remarked that the right to social security which was achieved after more than 15 years of resistance has not been effectively applied. Individuals who do not respect the law must face consequences, he said, and commercial bank employees must be aware of this as quickly as practical. “The Social Security Fund is ready to move forward efficiently by operating offices in all seven provinces,” adding that “work is underway to incorporate informal sector workers in the fund”. However, he wonders whether the government has been downplaying the programs in recent years.
GEFONT Vice President Ramesh Badal, speaking at the event, said that Nepal’s social security policy includes eight out of nine ILO-recommended policies in four different schemes. He went on to say that research has proven the claim that bank employees’ current benefits would be cut is a hoax. “By misleading the court, an attempt was made to render the Social Security Program optional, and thus it is more necessary to focus on information dissemination among all rather than imposing implementation of the Social Security Program”, Ramesh Dadal stated.
GEFONT Secretary General Janak Chaudhary emphasized the policy of “the more social security, the more labor flexibility” embraced by the Nepalese Trade Union and expressed his concern about the need to fill the wage gap, noting that the contribution-based Social Security Act and Labor Act have come simultaneously. He claimed that social security must be extended to workers in all industries, but that a union linked with the Nepal Trade Union Congress has filed a lawsuit to prevent this. “Contribution-based Social Security is the outcome of GEFONT’s long fight and GEFONT has launched campaigns to ensure its proper implementation”, he added.