Agitating workers of Bhrikuti Paper Factory block highway

CHITWAN, Aug 3: Workers of Bhrikuti Pulp and Paper Factory that have been organizing various protest programs demanding the management to settle their salary dues blocked the Gaindakot section of East-West Highway for an hour on Friday.

The agitating workers took out a rally from the factory site and sat on the highway at 10:30 am on the other side of the Narayani River in Gaindakot, bringing vehicular movement to a grinding halt till 11:30 am.

The members of the protest organizing committee said they would again hold similar protest on Saturday as well as Sunday. “We will stage the protest at the same time at the same spot tomorrow and the day after,” said Hem Raj Khanal, president of the protest committee.

Workers of the factory had been organizing protest rally since 10 days in Narayanghat and handing over their memorandum to the district administration offices and local chambers in Nawalparasi as well as Chitwan in order to press the management to settle their outstanding salary.

According to the committee, a total of 347 workers have not received salary since November 2010.

The factory, which was established with the assistance of the Chinese government, was privatized in 1992. The Golchha Group operated the factory for about two decades before announcing its closure in February 2011.

The factory had stopped paying salary to the workers from four months prior to the closure announcement. And as the company did not complete its lay off formalities, the workers said they have salary dues of 20 months.

If the management did not pay heed to their demands, the agitating workers have announced that they would intensify their strike, launching Kathmandu-centric protests in the second phase. “We will picket the head office of the factory in Kathmandu if our demands are not addressed by August 9,” said Khanal.

As the factory was producing an average of 1,530 tons of paper on monthly basis before its closure, workers claim the factory was still viable and can be operated profitably.

They have tagged the sudden closure decision by the management as its ´ill intention´. The workers have accused the management of trying to develop residential plots by closing the factory. They have even filed complaints to this connection at the labor office, following which the government has frozen around 35 hectares of factory land.

Under their five-point demands, the workers have mainly asked the management to instantly clear their outstanding salary, resume operations, and make full payment of insurance and provident fund.

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