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Choon´s concerns came a day after the Nepali media was flooded with news about a clash between two groups of Nepalis involving local gangs in the southern Malaysian city Johor Bahru that left three Nepalis injured on Sunday.
"Their [workers´] protests some times are not intended for their professional rights but targeted for political interests. It has created problems at a time when Nepal is one of the priority countries for South Korea to source workers," Choon, who came to Nepal to inspect the newly opened Korean language exam center in Lalitpur, said.
The Malaysian police arrested nine Nepalis suspected to have been involved in the incident and later filed cases against them at the local court.
Keeping in view the possible backlash to the event, the Nepali embassy in Kuala Lumpur had to publicly urge Nepalis in Malaysia to stay calm.
"We urge all Nepali brothers and sisters to continue their work with restraint and not to get involved in any provocative activities," the embassy said in a statement that day.
A couple of days before that, the Malaysian police had filed charges of criminal offence against 19 Nepalis for being involved in vandalism in Maur, Malaysia demanding salary hike.
Protest activities by Nepali workers go further. About 600 Nepali migrants employed in Maxter Glove Manufacturing Company in Perak of Kelang Neru near Kuala Lumpur resorted to striking in September 2012 demanding better food and accommodations. The action brought the company’s operations to a standstill for three days.
In another case of violent protest, more than 5,000 migrant workers, which also included hundreds of Nepalis employed at JCY Co Ltd, an electronics factory in the Tebrau Industrial area of Johor Bahru, protested near the workers´ quarters over reported negligence by their employer when a fellow Nepali worker died of high fever while at work. The incident took place on August 16, 2010, when the employer was alleged to have prevented him from being taken to the hospital in time.
These incidents are sufficient to show how Nepali workers are turning more violent in labor destinations in recent days.
South Korea, which had put Nepal as the best source country in 2010 for a well-managed process for sending workers, is now showing concern over some of the cases of protests and ‘unethical behavior’ shown by Nepalis against their employers.
Malaysia, which has sourced security guards exclusively from Nepal, is still the most popular destination for Nepalis. But, the recent incidents have tarnished Nepali workers’ image as loyal and disciplined.
"It is a very serious issue that the trend of Nepalis being involved in violent protests in the labor destinations putting forward demands that can be resolved through negotiation. Such acts will create a negative feeling toward Nepalis in overseas employers’ mind," Bal Bahadur Tamang, the president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA) says.
Tamang says Nepali workers, who are still known for loyalty, will be tagged as strikers in recipient countries.
"We have had reports of Nepali workers turning violent even in Gulf countries where laws strictly prohibit industrial protests. Worse, incidents of clashes between Nepali groups have worried us much," says Tamang.
However, not all the cases where Nepali workers have been involved are they on the wrong side.
Exploitations by employers violating contract agreements with workers are also causes of rising industrial tension involving Nepalis in labor markets.
"We shouldn´t undermine their genuine demands. But we have to be more serious about the emerging trend of Nepalis resorting to protests defying the law of land in destination countries," Tamang adds.
Nepal has been receiving remittance worth around Rs 400 billion annually from Nepali migrants in the overseas markets, making its contribution to the economy as much as one-fourth of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Remittance, which is also the key source of foreign currency earning at a time when country´s exports are slowing, will be badly affected if labor destinations, reacting to violent acts, cut their demand for Nepali workers.
Though strikes, industrial closure, protests, picketing and manhandling of employers by workers have become common in Nepal, such acts are not accepted by the law in most of the host countries.
With the international labor market starting to increasingly show more preference for skilled workers, the situation for Nepalis who are mainly unskilled labor is becoming tougher.
Resorting to impractical protests, workers are risking their own jobs whilst found to be spending a lot of money that they borrow from local money lenders at predatory interest rates.
They have the responsibility to financially support their dependent family members back home.
But why are they involved in such protests challenging the law of the land?
Foreign employment expert Dr Ganesh Gurung says such acts in labor markets by Nepali migrants is the products of the frequent bandas, strikes and other forms of violent protests that they experience back home in Nepal before they leave for overseas jobs.
"Most of the workers, who are working in overseas labor markets, lived through the major political movements during the last three decades besides hundreds of strikes and bandas. They are practicing what they learnt in Nepal," Gurung, who has also visited a number of places where Nepalis are working in Malaysia, says.
Gurung says that job-seekers should be given pre-departure orientation about their rights and responsibilities as worker in the foreign labor destinations to make them more disciplined and avert such incidents in the coming days.
Published on 2013-03-29 08:00:05