Yangyel Lhaden

Workers who have enrolled in the Build Bhutan Project could get a raise in their wages, according to the labour minister. 

The labour minister said that the ministry proposed a wage revision to the Cabinet. “Hold on for two more months for good news,” the minister said talking to construction workers deployed through BBP with the BIEBS Private Ltd yesterday. 

The contractors said that they couldn’t pay about Nu 14,000 salary to unskilled labourers. They said that they needed some time to recover from losses due to the pandemic and lockdown. The workers said the wage was low. 

The government tops up 25 percent to the wage the employers pay. 

BIEBS, a new company established with help of BBP, has recruited 33 workers, 30 male and three female from BBP.  

The company provides all services related to construction except welding. There are 17 companies registered with BBP. 

Of the 3,626 registered workers with BBP, 560 withdrew, 368 were rejected because of document issues, and 179 individuals are training.

Currently, 448 unskilled workers are deployed through direct engagement scheme besides the 83 skilled workers. 

Sonam Dema, 22, used to work in a hotel in Phuentsholing. She has been working as a painter through BBP since August with BIEBS. “No work is big or small, I don’t feel embarrassed. For a living, we have to face any challenges in life.” 

The other two female employees used to work in a furniture house with poor pay. They left the job and registered with BBP. “The salary is attractive and lunch is also free,” Cheychey said.

Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji, said that Bhutanese workers were crucial at the time of pandemic when the construction sector was facing a huge labour shortage.  “You are important just like de-suups serving during this pandemic.”

Chief Executive Officer of BIEBS, Chador Wangdi, said that Bhutanese could work in the construction sector. “Bhutanese need good leadership to ensure proper guidance to motivate them to continue work for a long time.”

To encourage workers to continue with the firms, employers needed to provide incentives such as free accommodation and social security measures, Chador Wangdi said. “The investment to retain local workers is huge but it is better as the money remains within the country.” 

Most workers said that accommodation was the biggest problem as rents take half of their salary. Still, they are able to rent apartments away from their workplaces. According to the guideline of BBP, an employer must provide decent accommodation to the employees.

Project coordinator of BBP, Kesang Jigme said that it would be hard for private employers to provide accommodation as they would have to spend from their own pocket.

“The government is looking forward to allowing project cost estimation inclusive of accommodation from contractors, especially for government projects and low budget accomodation,” Kesang Jigme said. 

BBP employees are guaranteed sustainability. Provident fund scheme ensures social protection and social security.

Sonam Gyeltshen used to work at various construction sites. He said that working with BBP provided sustainability and benefits through post-retirement schemes. 

Kesang Jigme said that with BBP they hoped to grow the private sector with employees from BBP working for specialised firms. “This would ensure the sustainability of BBP.”