Choki Wangmo

About 700 tour guides, mostly freelancers, have registered with the Guides Association of Bhutan (GAB) to take up jobs in various sectors in Covid-19’s wake.

The registered guides are currently undergoing orientation programme on the nature of the jobs, conducted for half an hour for seven to eight individuals to avoid mass gathering.

GAB expects to deploy the laid-off guides and start the work by next month. GAB’s executive director, Sonam Tashi said: “About 70 percent of the freelancers would be involved in these jobs.” He added that the jobs were in the unskilled sector and to avoid future complaints, GAB was familiarising them with the nature of the jobs and the pay scale.

Depending on the severity of the guides’ economic condition and source of income, the jobs would be given to those with immediate need. Most of the jobs are within the Thimphu thromde areas.

Tourism Council of Bhutan is expected to involve 260 guides in the tourism-related activities such as building roadside amenities and maintaining trekking trails.

As of now, two contractors have approached GAB asking to deploy about 30 guides to work in the construction sector.

“GAB is in the process of drafting proposals to involve guides in income generating activities,” Sonam Tashi said.

There are more than 4,000 tour guides in the country.

The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan has also developed an action plan to engage laid-off workers in the hospitality sector. The plan is being reviewed by the executive authorities.

A few days ago, labour ministry announced that the employer paring down employee must comply with the Section 91 clause (a), (b) and (c) of the Labour and the Employment Act of Bhutan 2007. The employers should submit a written notification to the ministry.

In an earlier announcement, the ministry asked the affected employers and employees to register on the labour ministry’s website.

However, according to an official, the registration is currently on hold as there is need for clarity on the clauses.