Maoists countinue to hit Nepal’s industries, this time it is the restaurants

Republica has report on how CPN(Maoists) affiliated labor union is demanding unreasonable salary and benefits for workers, which has forced a number of restaurants in Kathmandu to close.

“The four restaurant chains are suffering a daily loss of about Rs 800,000 due to the agitation of the workers.

Agitating workers affiliated with UCPN (Maoist) have put forth a charter of demands, including pay hike. After the workers put forth the demands, management of those restaurants closed the operation citing adverse impact on service of guests.

Pasting notice at their restaurants, managements of Bakery Café, Hot Breads, Nepal Dairy and Jajoo Café of Patan said that they were compelled to shut down their operations indefinitely due to difficulty in attending to their guests due to the workers´ protests.”

It is easy to denounce those who are not siding with the workers as heartless capitalist who has no concern for a poor worker. But let us have a reasonable discussion here:

The union is demanding that “increase their salary and dearness allowance by 40 percent and 100 percent respectively and transparency in management of services charge collected from customers among others.”

40% pay hike is not a joke and no company can take on that step all of a sudden. Nepal’s economy is in bad shape and the effect is being felt by industries in almost all sectors. The restaurant industry is no exception. I don’t know the financial situation of each restaurant close because of this dispute, but I am certain that they are in no way capable of raising salary by 40% all of a sudden. That sort of raise would be difficult for even big corporations like McDonald’s. Think about the kind of margin a company should be working on to have that kind of raise and still make profit. It is not possible.

So, the question here is not labor welfare of fairness. It is about why are the Maoists trying to hurt the restaurant industry by pressuring them with unachievable demand?

Let me play the devil here. The Maoists know the restaurants would in no way be able to give the workers a 40% raise. This gives them wiggle room, to modify demand as a strike goes on and loss piles up for the business. After a while, the business will be forced to negotiate and then the Maoists walk away with what they want. “Donation” for the party or whatever.

It is very low level politics to play up “worker welfare” in order to achieve petty gains. No only does this make the public skeptical of genuine labor rights movement, it also discourages entrepreneurs from venturing into business and clouds business/investment environment in Nepal. May be this is how the Maoists aim to create civil disturbance in the country and get back to power. But it s very myopic way to deal with things.

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