National workforce wage rate revised

Officials are hopeful the revision would encourage the workforce to be skilled workers

Wage: The National Workforce (NWF) wage rate is revised by about 30 to 35 percent starting September 1.

The last revision was done in July 2011 since the previous revision in January 2001.

Classified into five categories, the wage rates’ revisions are based on various skills in line with the Wage Rate Act 1994.

Category I workers, that comprise auto mechanic, carpenter and lharib, will now get Nu 324 a day while category II workers like supervisors, blacksmiths and plant operator will get Nu 286 a day. Auto electricians, plumbers and linemen will be paid Nu 254 a day under category III, and, sweepers, wiremen and sawyers who fall in category IV, will get Nu 234 a day. Unskilled NWF will get Nu 215 a day. (See table)

Labour ministry officials said that workers hired for government projects or activities like census, land tshogpas, farmer study tours and court witnesses will come under the unskilled category for which they will be paid Nu 215 a day.

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The NWF working at an altitude of 8,000 feet or above 2,000 metres will be entitled Nu 600 as high altitude allowance.

The revised wage rate is applicable only to Bhutanese employed by government agencies for works executed directly by the agencies concerned.

Labour officials said the rates are the minimum rates and that employers can pay their workers more than the minimum amount.

The Cabinet, last month, approved the revision of the NWF wage rate, which labour officials said was long overdue.

Labour secretary Pema Wangda said that NWF wage rate was revised considering the inflation and the salary revision of civil servants last year. “We hope that the revision would immensely benefit the NWF besides encouraging them to be skilled workers,” he said.

The NWF, established in 1960s, is mostly employed by government agencies like Department of Roads (DoR) and the home ministry for construction, maintenance of road and renovation of dzongs.

The revision of the NWF wage rate, according to government officials, will have a substantial impact on budget as the cost of work components is also expected to increase accordingly.

The DoR employs about 3,000 workers as part of the NWF.  DoR’s director Karma Gelay said that in winters, the NWF strength in the department increases with students working on temporary basis.

He however said that retention of NWF is a challenge with workers under DoR having to work under harsh conditions.

“Most workers within the productive age group has left for better opportunities in the hydropower sector,” he said, attributing it to the salary they receive. “Now we are left with mostly elderly and physically challenged people.”

The revision, he said, will help the workers and hopes would also help the department in retaining them.

But for Thimphu thromde that also employs a majority of the NWF, the situation is otherwise.

Chief engineer Mahesh Pradhan said their workers are deployed within the city boundary and the conditions in which they work are fairly better. “It’s difficult for us to relieve them,” he said.

He said their workers get free accommodation and drinking water, among others.

With over 250 workers on muster roll, thromde officials said that a majority of the workers have been with thromde for about 20 to 30 years now. The workers are also promoted once every five years based on their performance.

Mahesh Pradhan said they would have a management meeting to implement the revised wage rate after they receive the circular from the labour ministry. “The revision will have a huge impact on thromde’s budget as we’ve to meet the payment from our revenue but it’s good that the wage rate has been revised,” he said.

While the revised wage is expected to secure the wellbeing of workers and their families, some government officials said that with the revision, the demand for Bhutanese workers could drop owing to the high cost of labour.

Kinga Dema

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